On July 27, 2010, Nevada Senator Harry Reid convened with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to talk about the option of pushing the DREAM Act as a standalone bill. Many activists, such as those involved in last week’s sit-in in Democratic and Republican congressional offices in D.C., laud this decision, citing their hope for a path to citizenship as their motivation to fight for the bill. The DREAM Act, which enjoys strong bipartisan support according to a June 2010 poll, represents to some a concrete plan and a concerted effort to address the realities of undocumented immigrants’ lives after years of waiting for recognition as Americans.
For now, however, it seems that Sen. Reid will push the bill without any substantive changes to any of its more troublesome provisions. For instance, the military service provision, which the Latina Institute has long opposed, will remain intact, potentially entrenching the “militarization of the immigrant rights movement” by requiring that potential applicants who do not complete an associate’s degree or two years toward a bachelor’s degree instead devote two years to military service. Furthermore, undocumented students still won’t have access to federal financial aid or Pell Grants, which means that their dreams of attending college, even in fulfillment of the educational provision of the Act, may remain unrealized. I fear that these educational disparities may cause DREAMers to disproportionately rely on the military service provision of the Act.
Lastly, I dread that, after tackling the DREAM Act, legislators will be unwilling to devote any more of their limited legislative calendar to addressing comprehensive immigration reform. Passing the DREAM Act, though a noble first step, could enable anxious legislators looking nervously towards November the opportunity to claim success on the issue, without actually addressing many broader issues of immigrant rights.
While I applaud Sen. Reid for pushing the DREAM Act, I hope it we can reconcile the the military service provision’s possible negative effects and open channels for financial assistance for those who have waited for years to be called Americans.
By Nicole Catá, Policy Intern