House passes DREAM Act, Senate stalls
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act Wednesday night, bringing children of illegal immigrants one step closer to obtaining citizenship and an education.
President Barack Obama released a statement following the decision of the House to pass the DREAM Act, in which he congratulated congressional leaders for pushing aside partisan belief to make what he termed a "historic step."
"This vote is not only the right thing to do for a group of talented young people who seek to serve a country they know as their own," he said. "But it is the right thing for the United States of America."
By adopting bipartisanship, Obama said House representatives succeeded in breaking a pattern of "tired sound bites and false debates" that surrounded talks of immigration reform for the past several months.
"The DREAM Act is not amnesty. It's about accountability and about tapping into a pool of talent we've already invested in," he said. "My administration will continue to do everything we can to move forward on immigration reform."
Although the House approved the passing of the DREAM Act, opposition in the U.S. Senate successfully stalled the bill shortly after, which Obama said is halting the chance to reduce the national deficit by $2.2 billion over the next 10 years.
"Today's House vote is an important step in this vital effort," he said. "I strongly urge the U.S. Senate to also pass the DREAM Act so that I can sign it into law as soon as possible."
Members of the Latino Student Council at the University devoted their time this semester to raising awareness about the DREAM Act, which Political Chair Jorge Casalins said culminated in an array of emotions last night after hearing of its passage.
"Tears were coming down my face," said Casalins, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. "It was very emotional not only because it is something we are passionate about but just that we all came together on campus for this."
But even though the bill made it through the House, Casalins said the DREAM Act still faces the challenge of passing through the Senate, which will not be easy.
"We have to do a quick reality check," he said. "We are only halfway there and it is still in the Senate. So we are not fully done yet."
With the Democrats in control of the Senate, LSC Male co-Chair Braulio Salas said the time to pass the DREAM Act is now and hopes it will not be stalled for long.
"I'm hoping that when the House version of the bill gets up, it gets voted on and passed next week," said Salas, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. "It will change the lives of thousands of students across the country."
But Casalins said the stall in the Senate could have benefits, allowing supporters of the DREAM Act across the nation to garner more support and raise awareness.
"We are trying gain more time, being able to get more phone calls to senator's offices to offset the ratios and to get more persuasion," he said. "It is a strategic move."
Seeing as Republicans in the Senate swore to not pass anything until former President George W. Bush's tax cuts are addressed, Casalins said it would be unproductive to push the bill through the Senate.
"Even if we put it up today, we know it wouldn't happen," he said. "So it buys us more time and it is just politically smart to do so."
Salas said although support for the DREAM Act continues to steadily increase across the nation, the reason for some opposition is because people are viewing it as an "immigration bill."
"It is definitely not. It is an education bill," he said. "The sooner the people begin to look at it as an education bill, the sooner it will get passed."
With the passing of the DREAM Act through the Senate, undocumented students would move closer to receiving in-state tuition in New Jersey, which Casalins said is important to him.
But seeing as the bill is stalled in the Senate, all of LSC's focus is on moving the DREAM Act through the Senate, Casalins said.
"After the DREAM Act is passed, it goes together with the in-state tuition act," he said. "[Obama] already said he was going to sign it so once we get that, we can continue to work on in-state tuition."
In order to help move the DREAM Act through the Senate, Salas said student organizations at the University are working hard conducting phone banks and sending letters to senators asking for their support for the bill.
"The first and most important thing is educating people and the second is getting them active," he said. "People want to know what to do so it is letting them know what has been done and what can be done."
If a student at the University feels passionate about the DREAM Act and desires to see it passed, Salas said there are many ways they can get involved.
"Contact the different organizations under the Latino Student Council and ask," he said. "Come up with an idea and partner with an organization on campus because it's not a Latino issue. It is a human issue."
Salas also said some college students do not realize that they are the main reasons for the historical moments of change in the U.S. history. But supporting the DREAM Act is a chance for these students to take back this power.
"Students feel that, ‘I'm just one college student. What can I do?'" he said. "It's students who are the heart and soul of any major issue that needs to be changed and have pioneered the efforts."
Casalins said other students might feel it is unproductive to support an act that would not affect their life. But seeing as the United States is a nation built on equality and freedom, he said the bill is more a form of justice than a legislative package.
"This type of legislation gives an equal opportunity to someone who by no fault doesn't have that opportunity," he said. "It's more than just the DREAM Act does. It is what it stands for."