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|DREAM Act 2005: Introduction Imminent - More endorsements urgently needed!
Released 07 April 2005  By Luis Campillo - National immigration Law Center
We know that many of you are completely swamped right now. So much is happening! And many of you are on the front line of Herculean efforts at the state and national level.
In these very hard times, it is both amazing and heartening that immigrant students and their allies continue to make progress in their struggle for legal status and access to higher education. New Mexico has already passed legislation, and according to the reports we are getting at least one or two other states are likely to succeed this year, with strong building efforts in several others.
And now Senator Hatch and Senator Durbin are poised to re-introduce the DREAM Act very soon, hopefully within a week or so. Our expectation is that this year's bill will likely be substantially identical to the one that emerged from the Judiciary Committee last session by a 16-3 vote. Advocates are working hard to gather as many organizational endorsements as possible before the bill is reintroduced.
In broad strokes, last year's bill would have provided "conditional" legal status upon high school graduation to undocumented immigrants with good moral character who came to the US at least 5 years before the date of enactment and who were 15 years old or younger at the time they entered. The conditional status would be convertible into lawful permanent residence (a green card) after 6 years if by then the immigrant has graduated from community college, attended at least 2 years towards a 4-year degree, or served at least 2 years in the US armed forces.
Each of these provisions is expected to remain in this year's version. Also slated to remain is repeal of section 505 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), the federal restriction that needlessly complicates state efforts to provide instate tuition to undocumented immigrants.
One likely change from last year's Judiciary Committee bill is that DREAM Act students will not be required to enroll in the SEVIS program, a computerized database that colleges and universities use to report to the Department of Homeland Security whether international students here on a student visa are meeting the academic and other terms of their visas. Senators appear to have recognized that the already-overburdened SEVIS system is a bad fit for individuals who, unlike visiting students: grew up here; do not have to maintain homes abroad; do not have to meet specific scholastic requirements; and are unlikely to have money to pay the fees that schools charge international students to administer the system.
Prospects for Enactment This Session
As re-introduction approaches, the response from last year's supporters has been encouraging. The staffs of several of last year's Senate cosponsors report that their bosses are as committed to passage as they were last year--or even more so. More than one--conservative as well as liberal--report that their bosses "love" the DREAM Act. It is believed that passage in the Senate could create enough momentum to force action by the House. Advocates are confident that there are enough votes on the floor of both Chambers if congressional supporters have sufficient strength to compel the procedural moves necessary to call the question.
The biggest obstacle to passage could be the increasingly polarized nature of debate in DC this year, with the possibility that all non-essential legislation could be shut down in a test of wills between the parties. In addition, there is a danger that the DREAM Act could get lost in the noise and commotion surrounding all of the other high profile immigration initiatives. The only way to prevent that is for immigrant students and their allies to keep their need for urgent relief in the public eye and in front of Congress.
First Deadline for Endorsements: This Tuesday, April 12th
We are doing better. Hundreds of organizations--big and small--have already officially endorsed the DREAM Act statement of support. Still, the list must grow substantially and quickly if we are to have any hope of passing the DREAM Act this year. That will happen, but your help is essential.
Please check the list of endorsing organization to make sure that any group with which you are connected has signed on. The current list is here. If your organization has not yet signed on, please take whatever steps are necessary to make sure it does so right away. Your organization can sign on either by filling out the on-line form which is here, or by e-mailing or faxing in the hard copy version of the form which is here. Note: these endorsement forms are for organizations only, not individuals. If you are an individual who is not yet connected with an organization that supports the DREAM Act, please contact Luis Campillo at Campillo@nilc-dc.org, and he will put you in touch with groups in your area working on the issue.
Next, please e-mail this message or take the endorsement form to any and all coalitions or networks you are a part of and follow-up to make sure that each of the member organizations contacts us with their endorsement.
Finally, please look at the list of endorsing organizations one more time. If you know of groups in your area that should have signed on but have not already done so, please touch bases with them as soon as possible to make sure they do. For example, you might want to contact the local chapters of some of the national organization that have signed on. Think outside the box. All kinds of organizations can sign on: local governments, business associations, non-profit community groups, school groups, social clubs, neighborhood watch's, PTA's, and others. Use your contacts.
Throughout this year, we will be contacting you and asking you to do more for the DREAM Act, even though we recognize how hard this is with so many other critical priorities pulling you in other directions. We feel comfortable doing so because we know the level of commitment so many of you have to your own dreams, or to those of the students who will be helped when the DREAM Act is enacted. There is no doubt that we will be successful if we are able to turn that commitment into effective action.
Thank you for your participation in this effort,
* The endorsement form: http://democracyinaction.org/dia/organizations/NILC/signUp.jsp?key=147&t=DREAMEndorser
* More information about the United We DREAM endorsement campaign: http://democracyinaction.org/dia/organizations/NILC/content.jsp?content_KEY=313&t=NILCLogo.dwt
* List of organizations that have endorsed to date: http://democracyinaction.org/dia/organizations/NILC/images/DREAM%20Endorsers.htm.
* More information about the DREAM Act: http://nilc.org/immlawpolicy/index.htm
* Any other questions, contact: Luis Campillo at firstname.lastname@example.org
National immigration Law Center
Wednesday, April 06
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