The hope for immediate Senate action on the DREAM Act, which would grant legal status to hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants, faded Tuesday as the measure’s chief Senate sponsor acknowledged he was having difficulty surmounting Republican opposition.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has been seeking to attach the DREAM Act to the defense authorization bill pending in the Senate. But in an interview Tuesday, he said the DREAM Act isn’t among the items on the table as Republican and Democratic leaders discuss ways to quickly wrap up debate on the defense bill.
Immigrant-rights advocates were dismayed by the setback but vowed to find other means to pass the legislation, which they have sought since 2001.
“There is no question that this issue doesn’t stop here,” said Cecilia Muñoz, senior vice president of the National Council of La Raza. “The longer we wait, the more talented young people we close the door of opportunity to.”
The DREAM Act would allow illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. before the age of 16, and have lived here at least five years, to receive conditional legal status if they have graduated from high school and have a clean record. After six years, they could become permanent legal residents if they serve in the U.S. military for at least two years or complete at least two years of college. As with most green card holders, they could apply for citizenship after five years.
The non-partisan Migration Policy Institute estimates slightly more than 1 million high school graduates and children still in school could gain legal status under the legislation.
The bill is officially the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act.