by Félix Pérez
America’s youngest DREAMers should have access to the same five-year path to citizenship as their older siblings and peers under the bipartisan immigration reform bill being shaped in the U.S. Senate. That’s the intent of an amendment that will be debated early next week by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
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Introduced by Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, the “Little DREAMers” amendment would shorten the waiting period from 13 years. Without the Blumenthal amendment, the five-year path to citizenship would apply only to DREAMers who were brought here as children but are now older than 16 and have completed high school or earned a GED and either serve in the military or attend college for at least two years.
“The Senate’s bipartisan legislation is really a historic step, but it should not exclude the littlest Dreamers – children brought to this country through no fault of their own who are too young to qualify for the five-year pathway to citizenship that the DREAM Act provides,” Blumenthal said. “My amendment would ensure that all child immigrants have the opportunity to achieve the American Dream in the country they call home.”
The Blumenthal amendment will be debated as part of the committee’s “mark-up” of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S. 744).
Arizona high school math teacher Dennis Van Roekel praised Blumenthal’s amendment. “These young children, our students, have big dreams too, and the amendment proposed by Senator Richard Blumenthal ensures they have the opportunity to achieve the American dream. As a nation, we benefit from their immense talents, work ethic, and contributions to our economy and society.”
Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, added: “The Little Dreamers amendment is a win-win for America. How we treat aspiring citizens reflects the values that define us as a country. The amendment rightly reflects our moral values and robust tradition as a nation of immigrants. For aspiring new Americans like these young children, the essential rights of citizenship should not have to depend on their age. Applying the immigration reform bill’s DREAM Act timeline to young children is right and necessary. Thirteen years to wait for these aspiring citizens is too long, and it’s a lifetime for young kids to wait for their earned citizenship.”
Blumenthal’s amendment has been endorsed by more than 180 education, child advocacy, faith-based, labor and immigrant rights groups.