Durbin, Along with Military & Education Leaders, Urges Congress to Support Bright, Accomplished Kids with Bipartisan DREAM Act

[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today urged Senate colleagues to come together and support the DREAM Act, a narrowly tailored, bipartisan measure which would permit a select group of undocumented students to become permanent residents if they came here as children, are long-term U.S. residents, have good moral character, and attend college or enlist in the military for at least two years.


“When I hear some describe this bill as amnesty, I wonder, if someone is willing to risk his or her life to serve in our military in a combat zone, is that a giveaway? If they go to college and become future nurses, future teachers, future doctors, scientists, and engineers, doesn’t that make our country an even richer place?” said Durbin. “We can allow a generation of immigrant students with great potential and ambitions to contribute more fully to our society and national security, or we can relegate them to a future in the shadows, which would be a loss for all Americans. This is the choice the DREAM Act presents to us.”


DREAM stands for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. The DREAM Act (and its predecessor, the CARE Act) has had strong bipartisan support since its introduction in 2001. The bill being debated on the floor today was approved in committee by two Republican Congresses. The DREAM Act has gone through committee three times. In the 109th Congress, it passed the Senate as an amendment to the comprehensive immigration bill.


“As the Adjutant General, I support this bill as it rewards those who have earned the right to become American citizens," said William Enyart, Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. "It opens a pool of recruits who have a great desire to serve. Service to our country should be encouraged, respected and rewarded. This is an investment in the human capital of our country, just as the GI Bill was. Without the GI Bill I, like many others, wouldn’t have a college education. Just as I was given an opportunity to succeed I believe those who are willing to serve should also receive an opportunity to succeed.”


In order to be eligible for the DREAM Act individuals must:


  • Have arrived here under the age of 16
  • Be under the age of 30 on the date of enactment
  • Have lived in the U.S. for at least 5 years
  • Graduate from a U.S. high school or has obtained a GED in the U.S.; and
  • Serve in the military or attend college for at least two years
  • Have good moral character


Statement from University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer: "I support the DREAM Act introduced by Senator Richard J. Durbin because it would open doors for bright students who have the potential to make significant contributions to our universities and society. Our nation's future economic success will be dependent upon our ability to tap all sources of talent and encourage a greater proportion of our young people to aspire to a college degree. This legislation would be a step in that direction."


How it works:


  • If a student who otherwise qualifies for the DREAM Act graduates from a U.S. high school or gets a GED in the U.S., they can obtain conditional permanent residence.
  • They then have 6 years during which they must enlist in the military or go to college for 2 years.
  • If they complete 2 years of higher education or military service, they can then receive Legal Permanent Residence (LPR/Green Card).


The DREAM Act would do the following:


  • The DREAM Act includes strong anti-fraud protections. Applicants who have committed document fraud are ineligible for the DREAM Act and anyone who commits fraud in applying for the DREAM Act can be prosecuted and imprisoned for up to five years.
  • The DREAM Act would help solve the Army’s recruitment crisis. Under the DREAM Act, thousands of well-qualified recruits would become eligible for military service, all of them high-school graduates with good moral character and no criminal background. DoD officials say the DREAM Act is “very appealing,” would apply to the “cream of the crop” and would be “good for readiness.”


“As president of a university that is actively involved in outreach programs with the Hispanic community in Chicago and throughout Illinois, I applaud Senator Durbin’s initiative,” said Illinois State University President Al Bowman. “These talented young people can achieve success by pursing education and career opportunities through provisions of the DREAM Act.”


The DREAM Act amendment would NOT do the following:


  • The DREAM Act would NOT lead to “chain migration”. DREAM Act beneficiaries would have very limited ability to sponsor family members. They could never sponsor extended family members and they could not begin sponsoring siblings or parents for at least six years. The visa backlog for siblings is decades long and parents who are illegally present in the U.S. would have to leave the country for ten years before they could gain legal status.
  • The DREAM Act amendment would NOT repeal a provision of federal law that prevents states from granting in-state tuition rates to undocumented students. This provision was in an earlier version of the amendment but has been removed from the current version.
  • DREAM Act students would NOT be eligible for federal grants which do not require repayment. Those who choose to attend college and otherwise qualify for the DREAM Act would only be eligible for federal student loans and federal work-study.
  • The DREAM Act would NOT give legal status to 1.3 million people. While CBO estimates that less than 100,000 students will benefit in the next ten years, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) estimates that about 350,000 will benefit. A recent MPI study explains that while 715,000 students would be eligible, current high school graduation rates for undocumented students are at 50%, therefore drastically decreasing the number of students affected. Given these statistics, it is likely that between 100,000 and 500,000 students will benefit – a far cry from the claim that millions will be affected.


“The DREAM Act is an equitable solution that will work to support future generations of a well educated and engaged citizenry,” said Roosevelt University President Charles R. Middleton. “It is the 21st century extension of our founding principles that provided higher education to individuals without regard to gender, race or religion in 1945. Using higher education as a pathway for citizenship promotes a sensible, pragmatic and equitable solution to a divisive problem. I look forward to standing with Senator Durbin on this issue.”


The DREAM Act is supported by a broad bipartisan coalition in the Senate, and by military leaders, religious leaders, and educators from across the political spectrum and around the country. During the 109th Congress, the DREAM Act was adopted unanimously as an amendment to immigration reform legislation that passed the Senate. In the 108th Congress, the DREAM Act was the only immigration reform proposal reported to the Senate floor, on a bipartisan 16-3 vote in the Judiciary Committee. The DREAM Act was included in the immigration bill that was considered on the Senate floor last month.


“Thousands of children currently caught up in the immigration system through no fault of their own deserve an opportunity to contribute their full potential to our nation,” said DePaul University President Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider. “DePaul University was founded to provide a first-rate education to all students who were not always welcome at other universities in Chicago. Our Vincentian mission is alive today as we welcome first generation students, provide them with a high quality education and empower them to contribute to Chicago’s vibrant economy in ways their parents never thought possible. There is real academic talent among these students, and the DREAM Act is a sensible means of nurturing this talent for the benefit of all Americans.”