Legislation that would provide a gateway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before they turned 16 may go before the U.S. Senate for a test vote this week.
A fifth version of the DREAM Act, originally filed in 2001, was introduced Tuesday by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill. The U.S. House of Representatives is also expected to vote on the measure this week.
The revisions lower the age of eligibility for the act from 34 to 29, shortening the amount of time to obtain legal status. It would also bar students who are undocumented from getting in-state tuition rates.
Those who qualify under the act would be granted U.S. citizenship after completing at least two years of school at a four-year institution or serving two years in the military.
According to the Office of Public Engagement at the White House, the DREAM Act would contribute to military recruiting efforts, increase taxable income and make the U.S. more globally competitive by producing educated college graduates.
The act has drawn backlash from members of Congress, who say it would take jobs from U.S. citizens. The DREAM Act would face an additional obstacle of overriding a Republican filibuster — which the party promised to bring up against any proposal coming before the Senate until Bush-era tax cuts are extended.
The legislation is facing a "game of political football," said Louis Mendoza, the University of Minnesota vice provost in the Office for Equity and Diversity.
Passing the act "would provide hope and raise the aspirations of immigrants," he said.
"I think everyone has been concerned about the political risk involved," with passing the legislation, Mendoza said. "No one wants to alienate the Latino community."
U.S. citizens of Latino descent are strong supporters of it, Mendoza said. "Those are the people who have voting power."
Mendoza is a board member for the Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network, which advocates for the legislation.
Although the DREAM Act would cover immigrants from around the world, Mendoza said Latinos would see the most impact since they are the highest population of undocumented citizens.
The DREAM Act could also affect diversity at the University.
"We could potentially see more Latino students applying here," Mendoza said. "Maintaining our standards of admission would not be compromised in any way. There are some really high-quality students out there."
For immigrants, a chance at a college degree is crucial, Mendoza said.
"The fact that they have limited access to higher education is frustrating," he said. "They figure they don’t have to take school seriously because they are going to end up in the field of labor anyways."
Mendoza sees flaws with the DREAM Act’s military recruitment, since U.S. citizenship is not a requirement for service.
"It seems like it is a back-door way to recruiting young people, and it is a risky price to pay," he said. "They are pitting their aspirations for a better future with
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