Star Tribune Editorial
The Democratic majority in the U.S. House chose the lame-duck session to force a vote on the DREAM Act, a sensible and humanitarian response to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as infants and children -- a matter in which they had no say.
By a 216-198 margin, including six Republican supporters, the measure passed with a swiftness and sensibleness that defied nearly a decade of rancor over the bill leading up to the vote. In the Senate, however, Democrats postponed debate this week, unable to garner the 60 votes needed to overcome Republicans determined to sandbag the legislation. Senators should not let this legislation die.
While not a comprehensive overhaul of U.S. immigration policy, the DREAM Act offers a way for individuals under age 30 brought to the country before age 16 to become legal, productive citizens by serving in the military or pursuing a college education. Under the House bill, they aren't eligible for federal student loans.
Arguments against the DREAM Act vary. Some say the bill rewards people who break U.S. immigration law. Others claim the measure costs too much or undermines American workers. The worst arguments, that the beneficiaries are largely criminals, seems more rooted in racist stereotypes than fact.
A majority of Americans -- 54 percent -- support the bill's passage, according to a Gallup Poll released Friday. While the poll found significant opposition, majority support represents a major shift in public opinion away from a once seeming insurmountable rejection of the legislation.
Passing the DREAM Act is a matter of conscience. It also may help with America's financial recovery by producing a much-needed pool of workers and reducing deficits by as much as $2.2 billion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That's why many business groups support the act.
Remember post-election GOP bravado about wanting to grow the economy and secure jobs? Why deny individuals who want to pay taxes, serve the country and even work their way up in the world by taking jobs that many Americans rebuff?
The House bill has adequate safeguards. Eligibility rules disqualify individuals who fail criminal background checks and those without high school degrees or the equivalent. In other words, the DREAM Act champions motivated young people with a desire to better themselves and contribute to society.
Isn't this how our country was founded?
The Senate killed its version of the DREAM Act on Thursday, creating the possibility of considering the House version that passed on Wednesday. But with a full agenda of issues to tackle before this session of Congress ends, DREAM Act supporters fear the legislation won't be brought to the floor or passed. That would be tragic.
Infants have no say in where their parents choose to live. Punishing children because adults violated immigration law is unjust. Deporting them to countries where they've never lived and don't know the language goes against basic human decency. Leaving them in limbo undermines American values.
Congress should keep the American Dream alive.