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DREAM Act, with Weakening Provisions, Voted Out of Full Senate Judiciary Committee

10/24/03 AILA Doc. No. 03102440. Students & Schools

DREAM Act, with Weakening Provisions, Voted Out of Full Senate Judiciary Committee

By a 16-3 vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee, on October 23, passed S.1545, the bipartisan DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2003), with the restrictionists on and off the Hill failing to stop the bill’s movement.  However, the bill passed only after a damaging amendment was accepted by an 18-1 vote.  The amendment, sponsored by Senators Feinstein (D-CA) and Grassley (R-IA), would change the DREAM Act in the following ways.  It would:

  • Eliminate the community service option as a way to lift the conditional residency status.  The remaining two options to lift the status are through two years in the military or two years in college;
  • Make DREAM Act beneficiaries ineligible for federal financial aid grants, including Pell Grants and Federal Special Education Opportunity Grants.  Students would still be eligible for federal loans and work study programs.
  • Require DREAM Act beneficiaries to register in SEVIS, the system to track foreign students;
  • Modify the "retroactivity" provision so that DREAM beneficiaries who have already satisfied the education or military service options before the date of enactment of the Act would be required to wait an additional 3 years in conditional status before qualifying for full LPR status;
  • Clarify that the bill’s high school graduation requirement must be satisfied by graduation from a U.S. high school;
  • Add a new requirement for DREAM beneficiaries to list all secondary education institutions attended in the U.S. on the petition to lift their conditional status.

During committee debate, only Senator Durbin spoke passionately against the provision that would eliminate access to Federal Grants, with Senator Hatch remaining silent on the issue.  While AILA is pleased that this important legislation has moved out of the committee on such a strong vote, we are disappointed with the provisions amended to the bill and will work to strengthen it as it moves to the Senate floor.