Congress may vote on DREAM Act as soon as Wednesday
December 8th, 2010
08:25 AM ET
3 years ago

Congress may vote on DREAM Act as soon as Wednesday

Washington (CNN) - An upcoming law school graduate with a 3.8 average, Cesar Vargas wants to serve in the U.S. military.

However, when he graduates, Vargas won't even be able, under the law, to hold a job, much less enlist. Vargas is in the country illegally after being brought to New York as a child from Mexico.

"All I want is the opportunity to serve my country and to give back to the country that has given me so much," Vargas said. "... We're not a problem.
We're the solution."

The House and Senate could vote as soon as Wednesday on a bill that would grant citizenship eligibility to thousands of young illegal immigrants like Vargas if they go to college or serve in the military.

The Obama administration and Congressional Democrats will hold a Wednesday news conference to push for passage of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM.

Championing the bill for the White House is Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois, and Rep. Howard Berman, D-California, are also scheduled to appear.

"I urge the Congress to pass the DREAM Act and set aside old labels," Napolitano said last week. "There are compelling reasons to support it. ... It will strengthen the military and strengthen the economy."

The DREAM Act would create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children under the age of 16 and have lived in America for at least five years, obtained a high school or General Education Development diploma and demonstrated "good moral character," according to a White House fact sheet.

Even then, a six-year conditional status will be awarded, and the students will need to meet additional requirements before moving on to the next phase - attend college or serve in the military for at least two years and pass criminal background checks.

Gaby Pacheco was brought to the United States from Ecuador as a child. The honors student said she has lived in America for 18 years, and "I'm an American. The only thing is, I haven't had a path, I haven't had a way to legalize my status."

Under the DREAM Act, the path to citizenship would be long, she said, "but it would give us the opportunity to serve."

Napolitano urged Congress to act "and come together on a bipartisan basis and in the grand tradition of this country." She said the DREAM Act would help people who were "brought here by others ... not of their own volition ... but were brought here by parents or smuggled into the country by human traffickers."

The bill could grant amnesty to more than 2 million illegal immigrants, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said last week.

"Mass amnesty is not the only problem with the DREAM Act," he said. "The bill allows illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition at public universities, placing them ahead of U.S. citizens. The bill also is a magnet for fraud."

The White House, however, disputes that the bill will give amnesty, noting that "it requires responsibility and accountability of young people who apply to adjust their status under the DREAM Act, creating a lengthy and rigorous process."

Young people who do not fulfill the act's requirements will lose their legal status and are subject to deportation, according to the fact sheet. DREAM Act applicants are responsible for paying the processing fees associated with their applications, and are subject to "rigorous criminal background checks and reviews."

DREAM Act beneficiaries would not be able to petition for legal status for their family members until after they have satisfied all the requirements.

They would also be subject to waiting periods. "The bottom line is that it would take many years before parents or siblings who previously entered the country illegally could obtain a green card," the White House said.

In addition, DREAM Act beneficiaries would not be eligible for federal grants, such as Pell grants, to attend college. "Undocumented youth adjusting to lawful permanent resident status are only eligible for federal student loans which must be paid back, and federal work-study programs where they must work for any benefit they receive," according to the White House.

Vargas and Pacheco said they will continue attempts to speak with congressional leaders and share their stories.

"All I know is that I'll continue to fight for my dream," Vargas said. America, he said, is his home, and he doesn't want medals or awards - "all I want is the opportunity to share in the American dream. In my heart and soul, I am an American."

– CNN's Jim Barnett contributed to this report.


Filed under: Congress
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. karek40

    Other than the fact that he has been here a number of years (so have many others) how is he different (his education – so what). If we make an exception for him then we should for all. Who decides how long they must have been here to receive the benefits of the dream act. Then who has to verify their claims of how long they have been here. There are not enought jobs for U.S. citizens – until our unemployment is below 4% we should make no exceptions, deport the guy.

    December 8, 2010 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  2. The reality is...

    No matter how you look at it this is an amnesty bill and rewards illegal activity. The Democrats will do anything they can to increase their base of voters.

    December 8, 2010 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  3. jpmichigan

    FIX THE BOARDERS FIRST! Once the boarder are fixed , then and only then should wee even consider anything like the DREAM ACT. To many of the YOUNG gang member have infiltrated the United States. Look at New York, California, Arizona, Texas, and many more. The rule of immigration have not been followed so far, what makes you think that the rules of the DREAM ACT will be followed. THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT MUST FIRST SHOW AMERICANS IT CAN FOLLOW THE LAWS THAT ARE NOW ON THE BOOKS!

    December 8, 2010 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  4. Maynard T. Krebbs

    He should be given priority opportunity to move to the front of the line, pay a substantial fine for receiving a lifetime of OUR social services for free and then ship out to Afghanistan. What I would like to know is who is going to battle for MY civil rights being violated by our own Government by not enforcing Federal law and taking my tax dollars away from MY retirement and MY families social needs? Social Security bankrupt, Medicare bankrupt, 20 million illegals soaking it up!

    December 8, 2010 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  5. stufit

    That is our democrat liberal congress. While the economy totters, NKorea and Iran are threatening, and the Federal Budget still has not been passed, they worry about getting illegal immigrants to vote for them in 2012. What a disgusting bunch of corrupt, lying, sleazebags.

    December 8, 2010 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  6. RightOn

    This is a trojan horse! Here, natural american's can't even get the american dream with unemployment, social programs, and the middle class all being reduced to ashes there's no way that our current economic situation can be taxed any further. Tax cuts for the middle class is a sham. What middle class, they are now the indigent of the new american society-they won't benefit from the middle class tax cuts anyway nobody has jobs.

    Kill the Dream Act, Fight against the tax cuts, Fight for long term 99ers unemployment benefits. The people of this country deserve a chance to stimulate the economy...the politicans can't do this they are being exhonorated from paying anything into this current economic system.

    December 8, 2010 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  7. Rick McDaniel

    The Dream act would be disastrous for this country.Itt should not pass. Period.

    December 8, 2010 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  8. Galactus999

    Why is the Federal Government not doing its job and deporting all illegals. The Federal Government has a responsibility to begin enforcing the law. I say vote NO to DREAM act. Deport all illegal immigrants from the United States. Start enforcing the law.

    December 8, 2010 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  9. Willy Brown

    This is an amnesty program aim to buy votes for 2012. Illegal is still illegal and the kids borne here of illegal’s are still illegal. This is not fair to the people who are trying to legally gain citizenship.

    December 8, 2010 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  10. LGNY

    When will we become strategic in our immigration. If someone like this has strong college grades and wants to serve in the military, then by all means make him legal. This is precisely the type of ambitious hard-working immigrant that helped to make this country as strong and prosperous as it is.

    December 8, 2010 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  11. Randy, San Francisco

    Now that the GOP has gotten its way with the tax cut for wealthy Americans and corporations, does anyone really expect them to act in a bipartisan manner by compromising with Democrats on the Dream Act?

    December 8, 2010 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  12. T'sah from Virginia

    What right do we have to KICK a person out of this country – We're NOT talking about a criminal, drug trafficker, a rapist, etc. This is a child that accomplished MORE than most of our own kids are doing and this child will "dedicate" his services for our country!!!!

    Immigration can be resolved but ONCE AGAIN, the RIGHT is not for a resolution – they rather FIGHT against everything!!! Just READ the blogs here and then LISTEN to our politicians from the right.

    The Dream Act is the PERFECT way to BEGIN Immigration Reform........... PERFECT!!! It allows us to siphon out the BAD SEEDS and keep the GOOD!!! What if one of these college and/or high school graduates come up with the cure for CANCER – Sickle Cell – Leukemia – Hodgkin’s Disease – Dementia – Hatred – Bigotry and Racism – do we want them HERE??? Come on now – illegal or not – we NEED the intelligent people here that are willing to GIVE in order to make a BETTER America!!

    I am so sick of RepubliCAN'Ts.............Can't do this – Can't agree with that – Can't accept Health Care for all – Can't pass unemployment – Can't find their own ZIPPERS when it's time to go to the bathroom!!!!

    On another NOTE – where is the TEA PARTY – the FISCAL RASCALS that were so much against RAISING THE DEFICIT!! Why aren't they out there DEMANDNIG that the tax cuts END for the RICH???? Huh? Where are they??? The RIGHT/FAR RIGHT/TEA PARTY folks are such HYPOCRITES!!!!

    We must continue to Move America Forward with our current leader, President Obama, because he is intelligent and he must have something up his sleeve that will EXPOSE the RepubliCAN’Ts for what they really are!!!!!!

    December 8, 2010 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  13. Peter E

    Fear and hatred of immigrants is nothing new. It's our history. Remember the Irish and Italian immigrants of the turn of the century around 1900? They too were spat upon. They too were called criminals. They too were discriminated against and made fun of. The right wing back then was complaining how Irish and Italians were threatening American culture, while leftists were complaining how the immigrants were taking away American jobs. And yet here we are a century later and somehow everyone is now proud of their Irish and Italian heritage. In fact people now associate being REAL American as having Irish heritage. A lot of country and blue-grass music itself grew out of Irish music, either directly or indirectly. We consider pizza to be one of the most American dishes. And all of this coming from immigrants whose entry into the states involved no more than them waiting in line a day at Elise Island, and then a few weeks of quarantine. Sure, they may not have earned their citizenship, only their children have, but they weren't thrown out either.
    I don't approve of people breaking the law, but I am saying that if history is any indication, within the century Americans will not only tolerate, but downright celebrate Mexican heritage. (some people have already started) Yes, by 2100, people in this country will proudly proclaim their Mexican immigrant heritage to proove they are REAL Americans.

    December 8, 2010 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  14. John

    NO AMNESTY. Two years of college does not equate to two years of military service. Just ask a vet, not a community organizer.

    Mr. President, listen to the people you have sworn an oath to – ABOVE your Democratic ideals. No more gov meddling in business as every attempt has ended in failure – not the purpose or role of the government. Next, NO AMNESTY. Secure our borders! Arrest and deport ALL illegals (including relatives of politicians). Arrest employers of illegals. No more anchor babies. Enforce our federal laws. Make America safe for Americans. DO YOUR JOB.

    Write, email and telephone your congressmen and tell them to :

    DRAFT AND PASS FEDERAL LEGISLATION TO REQUIRE PROOF OF CITIZENSHIP TO REGISTER TO VOTE IN THE UNITED STATES AND TO REQUIRE PHOTO ID, PROOF OF RESIDENCY, AND VOTER REGISTRATION CARD AT THE POLLING PLACE TO VOTE.

    SECURE THE BORDER IMMEDIATELY AND PERMANENTLY.

    ENFORCE EXISTING FEDERAL IMMIGRATION LAW U.S. CODE TITLE 8 CHAPTER 12 SUB-CHAPTER II PART VIII SECTION 1324 FULLY AND CONSISTENTLY.

    END THE TOXIC CONDITION OF BEING THE LAST DEVELOPED NATION IN THE WORLD TO STILL GRANT 'BIRTHRIGHT' CITIZENSHIP TO THE CHILDREN OF CITIZENS OF FOREIGN NATIONS.

    REPEAL NAFTA.

    What else really blows is after you die you always vote Democrat!

    December 8, 2010 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  15. Annie, Atlanta

    I hope to God congress can get this done and give these kids a future. It's well past time.

    December 8, 2010 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  16. EC

    Is this a news article or an opinion piece? If this is supposed to be a news article, it is very slanted in one direction with only four sentences in opposition to the Dream Act in the entire article. This is not responsible, unbiased journalism in my opinion and belongs on the opinion page.

    December 8, 2010 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  17. John D

    Well, isn't that just too bad. If the moronic libs would enforce the borders and current immigration laws he would not be in the country at all. This is just another bad LOOP HOLE filled piece of crap legislation by the left. It will allow amnesty to illegals with criminal records. Not to mention all the relatives that will be able to get amnesty with this bill. Shut the borders first! Maybe then we can talk about this problem but not until!

    December 8, 2010 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  18. Enough is Enough

    So let me get this straight, taxpayers have already provided a free K-12 education now the freeloaders want to have a college education that we subsidize that my kids are not eligible for, thats crap. Do we need to pay for more carrots to entice illegals over here, illegals already cost taxpayers 113 billion a year. Do we need to import more poverty. For every Vargas and Pacheco there are 100's in MS-13 and other gangs. CNN needs to report on that story.

    December 8, 2010 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  19. Ernie

    This is a "Back Door to Amnesty" and votes and putting immigrants ahead of U.S. Citizens. Again the Politicians don't care about U.S. Citizens. To the politicians it's other people, other countries first not the United States. They forget were their from. This is a slap in the face for all Natural Born Citizens of the United States the politicians make is easier for illeagle immigrants to collect all the spoils that are entitled the real "Americans". Do you think if an Amierican went to another country and do what the illeagle immigrants are doing in the United States do you think we would be treated the same way, I don't think so. The "Dream Act: should not be PASSED. If Cesar Vargas wants to be a U.S. Citizen then he should go through the process that for everyone. What the politicians have forgot the tax payers pay for all these programs not "Congress" It should be made harder for all Illeagle immigrants who want to come to America and all the "Natural Born Citizens of America it should be made easier not the other way around.

    December 8, 2010 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  20. terry, va

    They need a bunch of lawyers in Mexico to deal with the drug dealers. See you later, illegal alien.

    December 8, 2010 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  21. Sniffit

    Nothing makes the throngs of scared, bigotted conservatives more angry than the idea that "their" Amurika is being taken over by brown people...except maybe the idea that they will also be intelligent brown people not so easily manipulated by the GOP/Teatard worship of ignorance through their religion of misinformation and demogoguery.

    December 8, 2010 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  22. Vernon Fueston

    Please tell Cesar Vargas that he's perfectly able to join the U.S. Military. Check recent articles on CNN about Mexican vets. Besides, if those who want this legislation would stop protesting every attempt to close out borders and get this problem under control, reasonable compromises like this one could be accomplished. What these proponents want is an open southern U.S. border.

    December 8, 2010 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  23. david

    it's time to give to deserving people a chance of american citizenship. to offset immigration, we should start revoking american citizenship to lazy bums and criminals off american streets and maybe send them to somalia or something

    December 8, 2010 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  24. JNieves

    They would also be subject to waiting periods. "The bottom line is that it would take many years before parents or siblings who previously entered the country illegally could obtain a green card," the White House said. Baloney! As soon as the green card arrives all family members will apply immediately for legal status.

    December 8, 2010 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  25. Take America Back from the Libs

    Make the Republican Party's Day!

    December 8, 2010 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
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