HIAS: Another Opportunity Missed as Senate Fails to Pass DREAM Act

Posted on Thu, Oct 25, 2007 at 9:46 am

by Gideon Aronoff, President and CEO

HIAS – the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society – is extremely disappointed in the Senate’s failure yesterday to muster the votes needed to continue working out their differences on the DREAM Act, a bipartisan bill that would have give innocent children of undocumented immigrants the opportunity to further their education, get on a path to citizenship, and secure their futures in this country once and for all. In a 52-44 vote, the Senate was just 8 votes away from moving the immigration debate forward and solving a crisis that has unfairly affected the futures of many talented and deserving young people.

The Senate’s failure to move the DREAM Act forward in the 110th Congress has left some 65,000 students who graduate from high school every year in the United States with no future ahead of them in this country, and no other country to call home. The DREAM Act would have given these children a path to citizenship if they completed requirements to join the military for two years or complete two years of college education.

For the past 126 years, HIAS has helped over 4.5 million migrants based on the biblical mandate to "welcome the stranger". Yet the beneficiaries of the DREAM Act are really not even strangers at all. These students were brought to the United States by their parents as young children and grew up here. Not only are they already a part of America, but America is a part of them. They have come of age in the United States and attended American schools. They watch American television and listen to American music, celebrate American holidays, and speak American English – in sum, they are American. The idea of sending them back to a country where they haven’t lived for most of their lives is as impractical as it is inhumane.

Even more disturbing were the below-the-belt tactics used by DREAM Act opponents over the past several days. Specifically, we are appalled that Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO) abused his public position to viciously target individual students. The day before the DREAM Act came to the Senate floor, Rep. Tancredo contacted Immigration and Customs Enforcement and called on them to raid a Capitol Hill briefing and press conference at which undocumented students were scheduled to speak. These kinds of shameful tactics make a mockery of our legislative process and are designed to inflame, rather than inform, the public about the importance of helping aspiring students and young people in this country.

The thousands of Jewish professionals and students in their 20s and 30s who comprise HIAS’ Young Leaders volunteer corps across the U.S. have made the DREAM Act their primary advocacy issue year after year because they know these individuals not as "undocumented immigrants" but as their peers and as their friends. HIAS supports the bipartisan DREAM Act because it is sensible, humane, and responds to the needs of vulnerable young students and the communities in which they live.
Although the American dream for so many suffered a set-back this week, we are heartened that a bi-partisan majority in the Senate supported further debate on this legislation. We urge Congressional leaders to stand up for these children and consider ways to continue negotiating a compromise on the DREAM Act and other positive immigration reforms before the end of this year.