NAACP-Supported “Dream Act” Legislation Dies In Senate Vote

LEGISLATION WOULD ALLOW YOUNG PEOPLE WHO HAVE LIVED IN THE U.S. FOR AT LEAST 5 YEARS, WORKED HARD AND STAYED AWAY FROM TROUBLE A PATHWAY TO ACHIEVE LEGAL STATUS

On Saturday, December 18, 2010, the United States Senate, by a vote of 55 yeas to 41 nays, failed to get “cloture”, or end debate and vote on final passage, on H.R. 5481, the DREAM Act. Under Senate rules, 60 “yea” votes are required to obtain cloture and avoid a filibuster. H,R, 5481 would have allowed qualified young people, many of whom have lived in the United States most of their lives, an opportunity to enlist in the military or go to college and have a path to documented status which they otherwise would not have without this legislation. This effectively means the legislation dies for this Congress, and must be reintroduced and will need to be reconsidered by both Houses in the 112th Congress (which begins in January, 2011, and lasts through 2012).

Currently, people who entered the country without documentation, regardless of their age at the time of entry, how long they have lived in the United States or their behavior or accomplishments since living the United States, potentially face deportation at any time. Normally a child brought into the country without immigration visas would have to first leave the US in order to apply for a visa. Returning to their country of birth would not guarantee a path to a U.S. visa. Attempts to return are often difficult, with roadblocks such as three- to ten-year bans on reentering the U.S.

The bipartisan “Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act”, also called the DREAM Act would apply only young people whom have lived in the United States most of their lives. In order to qualify under the DREAM Act, an individual must have entered the United States before the age of 16 (i.e. 15 and younger); must have been present in the United States for at least five (5) consecutive years prior to enactment of the bill; must have graduated from a United States high school, or have obtained a GED, or have been accepted into an institution of higher education (i.e. college/university); must be between the ages of 12 and 35 at the time of application; and must demonstrate “good moral character” (in other words, not gotten into trouble with the law, must have members of the community, teachers, etc, who are willing to vouch for their character, etc).

If enacted, the DREAM Act would have allowed tens of thousands of young people – people who have worked hard, integrated themselves into the American culture and into American communities and stayed away from trouble – to fulfill their dream and the dreams of their parents and to achieve legal status. This in turn will allow them to go to college or serve in the US military. The DREAM Act symbolizes what America is meant to be all about – it rewards hard work and a commitment to the community with the opportunities and promises of America.

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