As Congress prepares to take up the DREAM Act, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Monday said passing the measure is an urgent priority for America that “cannot afford to wait” until next year.
On a call with reporters, Duncan depicted the “Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors” (DREAM) Act as a critical step forward for the nation’s economy as well as its moral character and commitment to freedom and opportunity.
“For our young people, for our country, for our country’s economy, we desperately need to pass the DREAM Act,” Duncan said. “We have a chance to do it now in the lame-duck session. I simply don’t think we can afford to wait.”
The measure would provide foreign-born children of illegal immigrants the opportunity to apply for US citizenship if they have lived in the United States since age 16 or below for at least five consecutive years, lack a criminal record, and are admitted to college or enlist in the military.
The DREAM Act originated during the Bush administration’s failed attempt to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2007, and was reintroduced this Congress by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA). Activists fear that the measure stands no chance in the GOP-controlled House next Congress.
It is supported by 70 percent of the US public, according to a survey by the bipartisan firm First Focus.
“We have about 65,000 young people each year who could benefit from the change to go to college,” Duncan said. “These are young people who have played by all the rules, who have gone to school, who’ve worked hard, who’ve had good grades, who’ve had good attendance, and once they graduate from high school, the doors of opportunity slam shut on them.”
“If we want these people to be productive citizens, if we want them to be contributing to our country and contributing to the economy, we have to give them a chance to go on to college,” he told reporters.
President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Education pledged to take on a leading role in reaching out to Republicans and Democrats to push hard for the DREAM Act before the 112th Congress is sworn in January.
The legislation is supported by the Obama administration and most Congressional Democrats — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has vowed to call a vote on it. But it faces stiff opposition and roadblocks from Republican leaders, who have promised its demise.