PI Original Angela Caputo Tuesday May 26th, 2009, 11:51am

Keeping The DREAM Act Alive

Immigrant rights groups have been anxiously awaiting some clear signals from Democratic leaders that comprehensive
immigration reform will be a priority on Capitol Hill. Finally a plan
is emerging. The Hill reports that amid growing bi-partisan support, Sen. Dick Durbin's ...

Immigrant rights groups have been anxiously awaiting some clear signals from Democratic leaders that  comprehensive immigration reform will be a priority on Capitol Hill. Finally a plan is emerging. The Hill reports that amid growing bi-partisan support, Sen. Dick Durbin's Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) (PDF) -- which would grant undocumented youth conditional permanent residency if they meet a set of education or military service criteria -- may crop up as a politically-viable first step to drum up broader support for reform by the fall. More from The Hill:

[W]hile health care reform may get this summer’s headlines in Washington, the DREAM Act may be a sleeper [...]

Strategically, the legislation is likely to be rolled into an overall immigration bill to attract votes. Durbin says he has the votes to pass the bill, for example, but prefers to do it as part of a comprehensive immigration package.

“I think it could pass if called. And of course Sen. Lugar's co-sponsorship gives me some confidence that a few Republicans will support it,” Durbin said. “But it's highly unlikely that anything major on immigration like that, on its own, would be considered. It's more likely that it would be part of a more comprehensive bill.”

As we noted when Durbin reintroduced the bill back in March, the DREAM Act would offer undocumented U.S. high school grads a six-year window to apply for legal residency. It would also extend financial aid, work study, and other in-state tuition incentives that would bring an estimated 65,000 American-raised youth out of the margins each year.

According to the story, at least 57 senators from both parties are likely to support comprehensive immigration reform, including a few Republicans. Another seven are persuadable. And the DREAM act could sweeten the pot. The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights has more on how Illinois advocates are ramping up support for the legislation here.

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