Some See DREAM Act Within Reach
by Charles Dervarics
Barack Obama’s presidential victory is fueling widespread optimism among student groups that Congress and the next White House will endorse long-debated legislation to help undocumented students gain legal status.
These organizations see an opportunity to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, through which undocumented students who complete high school and two years of college could gain conditional legal status and eventual citizenship.
“Our strategy is to get it done in the first 100 days [of the new administration],” says Shanta Driver, spokeswoman for BAMN, the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary.
Groups such as the United States Student Association, based in Washington, D.C., also share that view. “The DREAM Act is one of our top priorities for the first 100 days,” says Angela Peoples, USSA legislative director.
Congress in the past has considered the DREAM Act as a standalone bill and as one part of a comprehensive immigration reform package. Student groups want the former option for 2009.
“The best plan for the DREAM Act is as a standalone bill,” Peoples says. With its focus on helping children who came to the United States with their parents, the public can view it as an education access issue rather than “a large, divisive immigration plan.”
BAMN, USSA, change.org and others already are focusing on the Obama transition effort, while many blogs from students and nonprofit groups are rallying support for January. USSA also is planning call-ins, a fax campaign and a pledge card effort to inundate Capitol Hill, Peoples says. “A lot of students are mobilized,” she adds.
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