Immigrant rights groups and thousands of undocumented youth nationwide were disappointed with the U.S. Senate’s failure to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.
Democratic sponsors made an effort to bring the bill, which had passed the House of Representatives, to the floor on Saturday, December 18. Instead, the legislation was blocked by a vote of 55 to 41 by Republicans and a handful of Democrats.
“Our struggle doesn’t end here,” said Guadalupe Gracida, a youth member of Make the Road New York (MRNY), a nonprofit immigrants group in Jackson Heights. “Young people will join forces with immigrant workers, parents, and everyone in our community to continue fighting for immigration reform.”
The DREAM Act would have allowed undocumented youth, who have been in the United States for at least five consecutive years, to earn permanent legal status by obtaining a college degree or doing two years of military service. According to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), nationally 825,000 undocumented students would have been eligible to obtain permanent legal status through the DREAM Act.
“We are extremely disappointed that several senators stood in the way of a common sense bill that would benefit our country and help thousands of youth,” said Natalia Aristizabal, youth organizer at MRNY. “This vote makes it very clear that Republicans and Democrats who voted against the DREAM Act voted against Latino youth and their families.”
In the wake of the Senate putting the bill aside, Assemblymember Grace Meng from Flushing will write to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) New York District Office Director Andrea J. Quarantillo to urge her to grant “deferred action” status to undocumented youth in New York State. That’s because Quarantillo provided deferred action to Haitians affected by the massive earthquake on January 12. Meng hopes that deferred action will allow undocumented youth in the state the chance to have valid identification, work lawfully, go to college and live without fear of being deported.
“Every child deserves the opportunity to become a valuable member of our great country, to contribute to the country they have called home since childhood,” Meng said. “With the DREAM Act having failed to achieve the necessary amount of votes in the Senate, deferred action now remains our students’ only chance to fulfilling their dreams.”
"Today, with 12,600 dues-paying members, MRNY is a unique amalgam of worker center, legal clinic, citizenship school, mutual aid society, policy shop, protest factory and church. Its four offices in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island are an egalitarian oasis for members, who gather there for conversation and classes..."