The End of a DREAM?

The End of a DREAM?

by Carrie L. Rosenbaum, Esq.*

On September 21, 2010, the Senate put a temporary end to the efforts of immigrant rights advocates when they voted 56 to 43 not to proceed with the Defense Authorization Act.  Just six days prior Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had added the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act ("DREAM Act") as an amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill. Congress' decision to halt the Defense bill also ended the only apparent remaining immigration reform being seriously considered this session. The DREAM Act had about 39 co-sponsors in the Senate and 128 in the House.

It is estimated that about 65,000 U.S.-raised students would qualify for the DREAM Act each year. The Act would provide a conditional path to citizenship for qualifying[1] undocumented youth who were brought to the U.S. as immigrant children and have grown up here. In return for this path to citizenship they would be required to complete a college degree or give two years of service in the military. Without the DREAM Act, these young people lack a path to legalization because immigration laws currently do not have a means for young people who came to the U.S. as children to fully participate in society, and subject them to deportation on a moment's notice.

Senators Durbin and Orrin Hatch first introduced the DREAM Act in 2001 (the 107th Congress). It passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in bipartisan form in 2006, and was introduced in either the House or Senate, or in a joint fashion in the 108th, 109th, and 110th Congresses, as well as in the failed Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, and the Comprehensive Reform Act of 2007. The Act came close to passing in October 2007, with a 52-44 vote in the Senate - it was only eight votes from moving on to debate. President Obama has shown support for the Act, and it has had support from parties as varied as college presidents and deans, business and military leaders, religious community leaders, and hundreds, if not thousands, of nonprofit and community groups.

The youth movement organizing for the DREAM Act has been vocal, creative, and committed in the efforts to get it passed. Many of the youth advocates have been working on the DREAM Act campaign for a decade, engaging in lobbying efforts and public education campaigns including the "Trail of DREAMs" - a march from Miami, Florida, to Washington.

Politics has likely played a role in the switch of positions on the proposal for senators such as Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, who have previously been supporters of the Act but changed their positions closely coinciding with midterm elections campaign season. Some advocates will now push for a standalone bill. The DREAM act will likely be introduced during lame duck session and get a vote, and after the election there still may be a party line split.

Advocates emphasize the economic advantages to the country of passing the Act such as greater tax contribution from educated citizens earning more than those with just a high school diploma -- including medical professionals, teachers, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and engineers. As the argument goes, higher earners spend more money, further stimulating the economy. A more educated population would also result in decreased costs for public health and other benefits. Opponents have vociferously protested that "anchor babies" should not be rewarded with legal status. While it remains uncertain when the Act will become law, without a doubt, students and their large coalition of advocates will keep on working for the "DREAM," which some would say they deserve.


  • [1] Qualifications include:
  • Proof of having arrived in the United States before age 16.
  • Proof of residence in the United States for a least five consecutive years since their date of arrival, compliance with Selective Service.
  • Be between the ages of 12 and 35 at the time of bill enactment.
  • Have graduated from an American high school or obtained a GED.
  • Be of "good moral character"


*Carrie Rosenbaum is an immigration appellate attorney in private practice representing clients directly and providing briefs for other immigration practitioners. Ms. Rosenbaum has contributed winning briefs in immigration matters before the district courts, Immigration Court, Board of Immigration Appeals, and Circuit Courts. Carrie began working in immigration law and immigration consequences of criminal convictions in law school at UC Davis, worked in private immigration practice as an associate and as a supervising attorney at a nonprofit organization before managing a solo practice. Carrie has handled deportation defense cases as well as family and business immigration matters. She served as co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild Immigration Committee in the San Francisco Bay Area where she helped organize the legal and community response to immigration raids in 2008. She is a former Continuing Legal Education Committee leader with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, is an active participant in the National Immigration Project, is a pro bono attorney with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, and handles pro bono immigration cases through the AIDS Legal Referral Panel.



  • Tags: