Will Republicans Accept A Modified DREAM Act?

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed a modified version of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act to address several of the concerns expressed by Republicans — namely the GOP talking points criticisms voiced in a memo put out by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) last week. Media Matter’s Political Correction already debunked several of Sessions’ claims before a new bill was even introduced. The latest version of the DREAM Act further blows each of his grievances out of the water:

CLAIM: “The DREAM Act Is NOT Limited to Children, And It Will Be Funded On the Backs Of Hard Working, Law-Abiding Americans”:

REVISION: The latest version of the DREAM Act lowers the age cap for eligibility from 35 to 29 on the date of enactment. It’s worth noting that an earlier version of the DREAM Act that was authored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and co-sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), did not include any age cap and was approved by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee on a 16-3 vote.

CLAIM: “The DREAM Act PROVIDES SAFE HARBOR FOR ANY ALIEN, Including Criminals, From Being Removed or Deported If They Simply Submit An Application and Certain Criminal Aliens Will Be Eligible For Amnesty Under The DREAM Act”

REVISION: Anyone who applies for the DREAM Act and has an outstanding deportation order must show that s/he is likely to qualify in order to receive a stay of deportation while the application is pending. Since the DREAM Act already requires security and law-enforcement background checks, criminals will not be able to delay their deportation nor will they qualify for a path to legalization.

CLAIM: “Despite Their Current Illegal Status, DREAM Act Aliens Will Be Given All The Rights That Legal Immigrants Receive—Including The Legal Right To Sponsor Their Parents and Extended Family Members For Immigration”

REVISION: The DREAM Act is not amnesty. Applicants must go through a rigorous process of background checks, in addition to paying taxes, learning English, and either serving in the military or attending college. The new version is even more stringent and does not grant legal immigrant status to anyone for at least 10 years. Instead, they receive “conditional nonimmigrant” status once they establish that they qualify. In other words, if they fail to meet any of the DREAM Act’s requirements during those 10 years, they can be stripped of their status. The new bill also specifically excludes nonimmigrants from the health insurance exchanges, Medicaid, Food Stamps and other entitlement programs.

DREAM Act individuals have very limited ability to sponsor family members for U.S. citizenship. They can not sponsor extended family and parents or siblings would have to wait 12 years before their DREAM Act relative can even start the sponsorship process. If those parents or siblings entered the U.S. illegally, they would have to return to their home country for ten years. Essentially, it could be decades before a DREAM Act student’s immediate family could legally live in the U.S.

CLAIM: “Current Illegal Aliens Will Get Federal Student Loans, Federal Work Study Programs, and Other Forms of Federal Financial Aid an Illegal Aliens Will Get In-State Tuition Benefits”

REVISION: Unlike previous versions of the DREAM Act, the latest bill does not repeal the ban on in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants. Also, it would not allow undocumented immigrants to receive in-state tuition or Pell and other federal grants.

Soon, Sessions and his Republican colleagues will run out of semi-rational excuses to vote against the DREAM Act. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t. My guess is that Sessions and the far right will continue to stall and further misrepresent the bill as they always have. Hopefully, though, the modified DREAM Act will give at least a few “moderate” Republicans enough cover to get the legislation over the finish line.