Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Senate Hearing: Dream Act 2011

Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security
Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education
Dr. Clifford Stanley, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness


Senator Cornyn stated that the president failed to lead in immigration reform. He believes that the Dream Act has weak protections against fraud and can’t be a standalone bill. He thinks that our federal government is not securing our borders. He stated that this bill is a band-aid and does nothing for border security. He also thinks that it does not reduce the likelihood of illegal immigration. Although the bill would limit eligibility to young immigrants already here, critics like him believe there would be pressure to pass the law over and over again to help future waves of immigrants. Sen. Cornyn also accused Democrats of cynically pushing the Dream Act to gain favor with Latino voters in advance of the 2012 elections.

Senator Feinstein stated that according to a UCLA study, “dreamers” could contribute up to 1.4 trillion to US economy over a 4 year period. She thinks that borders are more secure now than they have been in the past 10 years. Border security forces have increased from 10,000 to 20,000. It doesn’t make sense to use border security as an excuse.

Secretary Duncan stated two reasons why we should pass the Dream Act:
1. Issue of fairness
2. Economic prosperity, helping “dreamers” to establish economic security that will contribute to the U.S. economy. It also goes against our national interests to not pass this bill.
He stated that so far 13 states have offered in state tuition for undocumented students but he believes that this is not enough. College still remains unattainable to many undocumented youth. We need to educate our way to a better economy.
Two things the he believes the Dream Act won’t do:
1. Provide students amnesty, as it is conditional and is a 6 year process.
The legislation would allow immigrants under age 35 at the time of the bill's passage to obtain conditional legal status if they can prove they were 15 years or younger when they came to the United States, have lived here continuously for at least five years, have displayed good moral character, have never been convicted of a felony, and have graduated from a U.S. high school or been accepted into a college or university. Within six years of receiving conditional permanent status, the young immigrants would have to complete at least two years of college in good standing or serve honorably in the U.S. military for at least two years. They would also have to pass tests in English and American civics.
2. He believes that the passage of this bill will not limit student loan opportunities for U.S. citizens.

Secretary Napolitano believes that the Dream Act is important to military readiness. She told senators that Congress hasn’t given her enough money to deport all of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country. That’s why, she said, she makes criminal undocumented individuals her top priority. She also stated that 71% of those deported in 2010 were criminals.

Senator Durbin recounted how he has brought the Dream Act as an amendment to a bill and then as a standalone bill. Yet, he believes that no matter what he does those who want to say no, will continue to find reasons to say no. He stated that to address the possibility of fraud, the bill establishes a criminal penalty of 5 years in jail for fraud.

The Morton memo that was issued a few days ago which was directed to all ICE officers, agents and attorneys, is laced with a lot of ‘shoulds’ where prosecutorial discretion is urged when handling illegal immigrants. The big question is, ‘how do you make sure that “dreamers” aren’t deported?’ Napolitano stated that they are currently working on a process (whatever that means). She stated that there are gray areas. For example, if someone committed a misdemeanor, we need to take a comprehensive look at the applicant in regards to what else they have done and contributed.

Sen. Cornyn asked Secretary Napolitano if the administration would be open to any possible amendments to Durbin’s bill, and she stated that they would be happy to look at any recommendations that Sen. Cornyn may want to contribute.

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