AILA Urges Congress to Support the DREAM Act

Thursday, December 2, 2010
George Tzamaras
Jenny Werwa

WASHINGTON, DC -The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) calls upon Congress to pass the DREAM Act, a bill that will strengthen our economy, our military, and our entire nation. If enacted, the DREAM Act will would give legal status to immigrant youth who were brought to the United States by their parents, grew up in this country, excelled in school here, and now want to go to college or serve in our military.

"This legislation should be a no-brainer," said David Leopold, President of AILA. "Each year, it would give an estimated 65,000 high school graduates who were brought to this country as children - Americans in every sense but for their lack of documentation - the chance to fulfill their potential in the only country many of them think of as home." Studies have shown that these promising youth would contribute more than $1 trillion to the economy during their lifetimes in reported taxable income.

Leopold continued, "By passing the DREAM ACT, America would be offering a real chance to youngsters with unblemished records and promising futures. It would, at a stroke, turn workers in the underground economy into taxpayers; expand the military's recruitment pool at a time when war has stretched it thin; and induce more people from modest backgrounds to attend college, gaining critical skills to keep America competitive."

Critics of the bill, with the hope of defeating it, have called the bill an "amnesty" and made exaggerated claims about it, including that it would provide safe harbor to criminals. Such claims are simply untrue. The DREAM Act has strict eligibility requirements and provides relief to a narrow population of talented young people. Moreover, the latest version, filed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) late Tuesday night makes the criteria for applicants even tougher.

Clearly intended to attract swing-votes, the new version (S. 3992) deserves careful analysis by all members of Congress. First, the new bill keeps in place an existing ban on illegal immigrants receiving in-state college tuition. The new version also lowers the age of eligibility by 5 years, excluding anyone over 29 from applying for the conditional non-immigrant status. The bill is tougher in that it would restrict eligibility for those who commit certain misdemeanor crimes and require them to demonstrate good moral character during their entire time in the United States. Those who receive the conditional non-immigrant status under the DREAM Act also would be ineligible for Medicaid, food stamps and other government-funded benefits. Moreover, no applicant could obtain permanent legal status for at least 10 years.

For years, voters have demanded that Congress step up to the plate and fix our broken immigration system. By passing the DREAM Act, Congress has a chance to show Americans that it can work on a bipartisan basis to pass common sense immigration reform. Leopold concluded, "The Dream Act will not fix all of America's immigration problems from the border to the workplace, but it is absolutely a step in the right direction towards future reform."


The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 10120210.