Immigration advocates spent the week DREAMing big.
The DREAM act, the decade-old legislation that would offer a path to citizenship to thousands of young people, has expanded a second front as the bill marches toward a possible vote: the U.S. military.
The DREAM — Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors — Act for years has been discussed primarily in the context of education, particularly college-level. Students who are illegal immigrants are not eligible for federal loans to pay for college, and once they graduate the work they find may not be in line with or commensurate to their education, advocates say.
But the DREAM Act, as drafted, also includes provisions for young men and women interested in military service. For youth who meet certain requirements — they arrived before age 15 to the United States, where they have continuously lived for five years and graduated high school — they can become U.S. citizens after two years of military service or college.
Nonimmigrants have long served in the military. The bill has the support of the Pentagon and several former military leaders and officials. Detractors say that the Democrats are ramming through an amnesty by attaching the immigration bill to a must-pass defense-spending bill.
Reid’s announcement kicked off what immigration advocates called a national week of action for the DREAM Act, capped by retired Gen. Colin Powell’s support of such legislation. DREAM Act coverage largely overshadowed other immigration news last week.
That included a report that illegal immigrants facing deportation have limited access to lawyers to help them navigate the complication immigration system and its laws.
NPR, in a three-part series, examined the impact of prosecuting immigration crimes in Federal District Court through a plan known as Operation Streamline. Starting under the Bush administration and continuing under Obama, the program has pushed thousands of illegal immigrants through the courts annually at the risk of constitutional rights.
Other stories included a 19-year-old high school senior originally from Mali but living in a New York homeless shelter had his school records subpoenaed by immigration officials, and a year-long look at a California family’s experience with the nation’s immigration system.
The DREAM Act, which aims to address the issue of “involuntary” illegal immigration, is cause célèbre for many Republicans, who are more inclined to sweep immigration reform out the door than pass sweeping overhaul legislation, particularly if they take certain seats in mid-term elections come November. Many on the right believe that such legislation would be a lure and a reward for illegal immigration.
But Powell, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, argued Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press that his party shouldn’t become anti-immigrant, and that illegal immigrants “are doing things we need done in this country.” He said, in fact, some of them might be working on his house.
They’re all over my house, doing things whenever I call for repairs, and I’m sure you’ve seen them at your house. We’ve got to find a way to bring these people out of the darkness and give them some kind of status.
He later clarified his statement:
I don’t hire illegal immigrants. On Meet the Press yesterday, I referred to illegal immigrants working around my house. I was referring to the many service contractors who work in my neighborhood, using mostly immigrant workers, who do good work. Some may well be “illegal.”