White House makes final push for DREAM Act

The Obama administration stepped up its campaign Friday, Dec. 17th, to overcome a possible Republican filibuster of the DREAM Act, a bill that would provide undocumented immigrant youth a pathway to legal status through public service.

The law would enable tens of thousands of immigrant youth to attend college or enter military service as well. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has scheduled a procedural vote on the DREAM Act for Sat., Dec. 18.

A number of Republicans who are either co-authors or co-sponsors of past versions of this bill have yet to indicate whether they will support overcoming a Republican filibuster.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan called passage of the bill urgent for the American economy. “We have to educate our way to economic recovery,” he told reporters on a conference call Friday. “The only way we’re going maintain our country’s competitiveness in a knowledge-based, competitive global economy is by providing high-quality education, by providing more opportunity – not less.”

Duncan welcomed the potential energy and hard work of young people entering the workforce and American colleges and universities. “So far we’ve been fundamentally backward on this issue,” he said.

“To have a chance to change this tomorrow in the Senate would be an extraordinary moment for this country and this country’s economy,” Duncan added. He characterized passage of the law as the right thing to do for the young people as well as for the economy. “This is going to go down as an absolutely historic vote,” he said.

Senior White House officials explained that members of the Cabinet and the President himself have campaigned vigorously for passage of the bill and will work through Friday and Saturday to win a successful outcome on the filibuster vote.

The House narrowly passed a version of the DREAM Act earlier this week. Republicans remain split on the measure, however. While a number of current and incoming Republican members of Congress used anti-immigrant hostility and racist imagery of Latinos they associated with the immigration issue, some prominent Republicans fear their inability to move forward on the issue could harm their future electoral chances in states where they now hold large majorities but in which the number of Latino voters is on the rise.

Image: U.S. Secretary of Aducation Arne Duncan. Department of Education


Joel Wendland-Liu
Joel Wendland-Liu

Joel Wendland-Liu teaches courses on diversity, intercultural competence, migration, and civil rights at Grand Valley State University in West Michigan. He is the author of "Mythologies: A Political Economy of U.S. Literature, Settler Colonialism, and Racial Capitalism in the Long Nineteenth Century" (International Publishers) and "The Collectivity of Life" (Lexington Books).