As I watched the DREAM Act debate on C-SPAN earlier today, I realized something. I’ve been writing, reading and thinking about this issue since I started grad school in 2004. My first paper for a class that quarter was on the history of the DREAM Act and AB 540. Before that, I had supported California’s AB 540 and pushed for the UC Regents to adopt it in 2001.
All that was before I became friends with undocumented students or worked directly with them. After getting to know students in this situation, my belief in the need for the DREAM Act grew.
Thus, seeing the DREAM Act come up for a vote tonight made me incredibly nervous. I was on edge as I listened to impassioned speeches on the House floor. I cheered when I heard strong remarks from supporters and was angered by the lies and misinformation spread by detractors.
I also felt my UCLA pride grow when I heard it mentioned by four different representatives. Rep. Zoe Lofren mentioned being moved by Tam Tran’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law in 2007. Rep. Judy Chu spoke about Ernesto a student who interned while in community college who was then admitted to UCLA. (Curiously, I saw a picture tweeted of him watching Rep. Chu mention him.) And there were two other representatives who mentioned the findings of a report from UCLA’s NAID Center on economic benefits of passing the DREAM Act.
When the final votes were counted and I saw the DREAM Act (HR 6497) passed 216-198, I cheered. My eyes may have watered a bit despite knowing that the fight goes on to the Senate now and knowing that the current DREAM Act isn’t what I’d like to see. It’s a watered down and harsher than past versions. Michael E. Hill explains:
Applicants for relief under the House-passed version of the DREAM Act would have to apply for that relief before reaching their 30th birthday and would have to pay $2,525 in “surcharges” in addition to the fee that the DHS sets for the cost of adjudicating their application. Under the House-passed bill, DREAM Act applicants would be ineligible for a host of federal educational assistance programs.
Still, the DREAM Act provides a path to citizenship to thousands of youth (albeit a long one). It’s the first time in almost 25 years Congress has voted to legalize anyone.
Congratulations to all those who worked so hard and put yourselves on the line for the DREAM Act. Your celebration is well deserved.
If you want to make some calls to Senators here’s scripts, phone numbers and targets.