DREAM Act stalemate top first term 'disappointment,' Duncan says
November 28th, 2012
10:41 AM ET
10 years ago

DREAM Act stalemate top first term 'disappointment,' Duncan says

Washington (CNN) - Heading into a second term at the helm of the education department, Secretary Arne Duncan said Wednesday that the largest missed opportunity of President Barack Obama's first term was the lack of movement on an immigration reform measure.

"I think there's a moment of opportunity on both sides to get some soul searching maybe a little more on the Republican side," Duncan said. "We have to do something about immigration reform and one of my ... biggest disappointments of the first four years is that we didn't get the DREAM Act passed."

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The measure passed a procedural vote in the then-Democratic-led House when advanced in 2010 but was blocked in the Senate.

The act would grant legal status to some young illegal immigrants who choose to continue their education or enter the military.

Some Republicans have characterized it as amnesty, though others, like Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, have said the GOP should advance their own version of the program. Rubio said he was putting on hold plans to propose such a measure when Obama issued an executive order this year which paused deportation for some who would be covered by the DREAM Act.

Duncan suggested Wednesday at an education summit in Washington organized by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's foundation that the results of this year's election, where exit polls showed Obama winning overwhelmingly among voters who were Latino, opened a window for renewed progress on a measure such as the DREAM Act.

"The fact that we allow so many children who have worked so hard and played by the rules and gotten great grades and become community leaders, that we slam shut the door of opportunity is absolutely insane," Duncan said at the Excellence in Action National Summit on Education Reform.

"These are the future leaders, job creators, entrepreneurs, innovators, and so I think there's a moment of opportunity literally now, in the next couple of months for Congress to do the right thing and pass it."

Duncan was previously put forward by the Obama administration as a leading proponent of the measure.

But there are other issues on Congress' plate today, such as the fiscal cliff.

In his remarks and answers to questions from education policy makers from around the country, he also spoke about the importance for early childhood education, implementation of higher standards in K-12 education, and "affordable and accessible college."

And should there be movement on the DREAM Act or an alternative, it would come as Latinos are accessing higher education in greater numbers.

"In the past two years we've seen a 25 percent increase in Hispanic enrollment in college. That is a huge jump. We've got to make sure that its not just enrollments, that its graduation rates," Duncan said.

"There's a lot to be hopeful about, a lot to be optimistic about and I think we have an opportunity together with something like the dream act passing to transform educational opportunity for Latino communities," he added.

Filed under: 2012 • Arne Duncan • DREAM act • Immigration
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    After seeing how bad they lost the latino vote, some republicans like Sen. Lindsay Graham have sworn to get immigration reform passed. I think some version of the DREAM Act needs to be passed. Whichever version it is must have a pathway to citizenship.

    November 28, 2012 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  2. Gurgyl

    Nation is flooded with h1b visa guys breaking the laws. Watch out. Put strictures on immigration.

    November 28, 2012 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  3. independent

    Pass the Dream Act and enforce E-Verify. Fine any individual or company not using the system as they should.

    November 28, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  4. petemg

    How about Congress thinks about the present citizen who just want to work. How about giving the present citizens access to higher education, they deserve it first.

    November 28, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  5. Rick McDaniel

    What he means........is they missed an opportunity to BUY MORE VOTES, WITH MORE HAND OUTS!

    November 28, 2012 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  6. cali girl

    Hey Arne, Think you had the largest missed opportunity as the head of education, have you looked lately at the state of Public Education? It is in shambles dude.

    November 28, 2012 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  7. Tommy G

    First secure the borders, then talk about these amnesty gimmicks.

    November 28, 2012 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  8. Rudy NYC

    What is the conservative solution to millions of potential illegals besides Romney's "self deport" proposal?

    November 28, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  9. Rudy NYC

    Rick McDaniel wrote:

    What he means........is they missed an opportunity to BUY MORE VOTES, WITH MORE HAND OUTS!
    I guess that you didn't notice that Romney promised hundreds of billions in tax cuts, including reducing his own taxes to under 1%.

    November 28, 2012 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  10. Dumbocracy

    Get out illegals! Thats a good policy to start with until we secure the border and revise our immigratuion policies. Or we keep them all and Rudy and his cohorts agree to check a box on their IRS forms to pay significantly more taxes to support illegal aliens.

    November 28, 2012 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |