Bipartisan DREAM Act, with Weakening Amendment, Moves through Senate Committee

American Immigration Lawyers Association

Contact:   Julia Hendrix
(202) 216-2404

October 24, 2003

Deserving Kids Cross Hurdle Toward Higher Education
DREAM Act, with Weakening Amendment, Moves through Senate Committee

By marking up and passing the DREAM Act (S. 1545), the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday took an important step to remove one of the barriers that deserving children face in their quest to attend colleges and legalize their status in the United States. The DREAM Act would return to the states the authority to determine who qualifies for in-state tuition. The bill also would legalize the status of those young people who meet certain criteria, including having good moral character and having lived in the U.S. for at least five years preceding the Act's passage.

"America benefits when all people have the opportunity to contribute to society and the economy. The DREAM Act will facilitate that opportunity for deserving kids, by removing some of the barriers to their attending college and gaining legal status. It not only makes economic sense, but it is the right thing to do," said Judith Golub, Senior Director of Advocacy and Public Affairs for the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

By a 16-3 vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2003), despite the strong efforts of restrictionists on and off Capitol Hill to defeat this measure. However, the bill passed only after the Committee approved a damaging amendment sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Charles Grassley (R-IA).

"AILA strongly opposes this amendment that would make DREAM Act beneficiaries ineligible for federal financial aid grants, such as Pell Grants, and eliminates the community service option as a way to lift their conditional residency status. We applaud Senator Durbin who spoke passionately in support of the bill and against this weakening amendment," said John Estrella, AILA's Policy Analyst.

"While AILA is pleased that this important legislation has moved out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on such a strong vote, we are disappointed with the provisions amended to the bill and will work to strengthen the bill as it moves to the Senate floor," concluded Golub and Estrella.

AILA urges the House to act on companion legislation, the Student Adjustment Act (H.R. 1684), introduced by Representatives Chris Cannon (R-UT), Howard Berman (D-CA), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA). AILA also urges President Bush to declare his support for this important legislation.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 03102710.