With it being an election year, many lawmakers have been avoiding the politically charged topic of comprehensive immigration reform, making it unlikely that it will advance before the end of the year. However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) may attempt to push through the DREAM Act as a stand-alone piece of legislation before the November elections if advocates of a comprehensive bill strongly believe that there is no chance for full reform.
The DREAM Act, which is sponsored by Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN) (co-sponsored by Washington Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell) would provide a path to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants who choose to go to college or serve with the US armed forces. Approximately 65,000 undocumented immigrants graduate from American high schools every year. Many of these students are unable to attend college, largely because they can’t afford it and lack accessibility to student aid. This Act would allow them to be eligible for student loan and work-study programs.
The University of Washington and much of the higher education community has voiced support for the DREAM Act as it would result in several economic and societal benefits. Research shows that there is a million dollar difference, over a lifetime, between the earning capacity of a high school graduate and a college graduate. People who attend college are also more likely to be healthier than those that do not, volunteer and contribute to their community, and are less likely to be incarcerated or rely on public assistance. The DREAM Act would allow these capable students to contribute to the economic growth of the United States and to their own self-sufficiency while becoming active members of American society.