Washington, DC Last night, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced that the DREAM Act will not be debated as an amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill this week. The DREAM Act, legislation that would provide a legal path for certain young undocumented immigrants already in the country if they attend school or join the military, will be tabled until mid-November when the Majority Leader intends to set aside time for its debate. Opposition from Republican Senators to the legislation and/or the vehicle to which it was being attached seems to be responsible for this delay. The following is a statement by Frank Sharry, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, a pro-immigrant advocacy organization in Washington.
The DREAM Act, a modest serving of common sense in the volatile world of immigration policy, will not be debated and voted on this week, but is living on to fight another day. It is a disappointment, but not a defeat. Measures like the DREAM Act and AgJOBS (another narrowly targeted measure for workers and employers in the agriculture industry) should be debated and passed expeditiously now that the Congress has cut off hope for much needed reforms to the broader immigration system.
Sen. Reid has consistently demonstrated an earnest resolve to push the Senate to deliberate serious reforms to America’s dysfunctional immigration laws. We thank Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), and Richard Lugar (R-IN) for their behind-the-scenes efforts to move the DREAM Act this week, and take the Majority Leader at his word that he will do all within his powers to address this important issue.
However, we will also take at their word several Senators, mostly Republicans, who said they support the DREAM Act but had concerns about the vehicle to which it was being attached this week. Since the Congress is unlikely to pass major reform this year, narrowly targeted measures like DREAM and AgJOBS would serve as stopgap measures. We expect these Senators and their colleagues to provide some relief, especially to the young immigrants who would benefit from DREAM, the agricultural industry that would benefit from AgJOBS, and the American people who would benefit from both.
Unfortunately, many Republicans in the House and Senate are anxious to make immigration an election year issue and vehemently oppose any meaningful solutions while piling on measures to attack and marginalize immigrant communities. A year that started with so much hope for bipartisan cooperation and accomplishment must not be allowed to devolve into a sound-bite-for-sound-bite food fight. Narrowly targeted measures like the DREAM Act, which have garnered support in both houses and both parties, can point the way towards real improvements for American families, the American economy, and the bright future of immigrants in this country.