Dec 22 – Newsletter
Democrat Leadership & Groups Proposed DREAM
On Dec. 6, a meeting was convened by Sen. Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Durbin (D-IL) to discuss a Republican legislative proposal. The senators similarly discussed bringing up DREAM Act up for a vote. DRM, including other immigrant advocates, fiercely opposed such a action because it would amount to a symbolic vote advanced only for political gain. Indeed, according to Sen. Durbin and others, “the DREAM Act would currently receive no more than 50 votes.”
As to the republican bill, the senators indicated it contains the basic elements of the DREAM Act but with “no path to citizenship”. DRM inquired whether republicans are calling for a firm no path to citizenship bill or whether they only call for a bill that includes no direct path to citizenship but leaves in place alternative legal avenues to pursue citizenship. For example, a dreamer can adjust to legal status via the proposed legislation and then be able to obtain citizenship through marriage, employment, or the military. The senators did not have an answer. DRM pursued a follow up dialogue with conservatives who support CIR and DREAM to discuss the question raised. Interestingly, these individuals indicated that some “Republicans are not oppose to alternative paths to citizenship but only opposed to direct path to citizenship in the bill due to political pressures from the right.” Thus, a beneficiary would immediately obtain the following: no longer be a target for deportation, work permit, and conditional legal status. Nevertheless, its a preliminary conversation needing further dialogue and caution. DRM underscore the importance of Dreamers being in every conversation and part of any decision regarding DREAM. DRM will keep you updated on news as they develop in early January.
DHS Directive on Prosecutorial Discretion
In a follow up meeting with White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Cecilia Munoz, and the Associate Director for the office of public engagement, Julie Rodriguez, the DRM team discussed the oversight and development of the DHS directive that was announced in early August of this year. Regarding the oversight of the directive, both the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, the two agencies with jurisdiction, have to make “their own judgment on how to proceed with the review of the 300,000 cases to decide who is low or high priority.” According to Cecilia Munoz, the White House is limited in their involvement. In addition, she indicated that it was “important to hold congress accountable for the oversight of DHS and DOJ, and make sure they hold oversight hearings within their own committees.”
In Denver, one of the pilot cities for the program, the Colorado Immigration Coalition and Faith leaders have met to talk about the process of the cases being reviewed. The pilot programs will be over on Jan. 3, 2012. The results of the information will guide the expansion of the program throughout the nation. In another meeting with Senator Durbin’s office we found out that his office has been back and forth communicating with DHS and following the process closely to ensure the pilot programs are running properly. However, the pilot programs can not be fully evaluated until the programs are completely implemented. For now, they are holding briefings to ensure ICE knows that DHS Directive is mandatory and not discretionary. DRM will keep you updated on news as they develop in early January.
Senator Bennet (D-CO) Introduces Bill Similar to DREAM
Undocumented students who graduate from a high school in the United States and enroll full time to study science, technology, engineering or math in an American institution of higher education would be eligible to apply for temporary student visas under a bill Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced Dec. 13. The proposed legislation would make it easier for students who graduate in these areas to stay and work in the U.S. Currently, 140,000 green cards are granted to skilled workers every year, but that number is not enough to meet the high demands for workers in the STEM field (science, technology, engineering and math). Granting green cards to undocumented students would help employers meet the growing demand of workers in high skilled jobs.
The proposed legislation would also establish a new fund through visa fees that will improve STEM education for American students through STEM scholarships for low-income students, a STEM grant program for minority serving universities and colleges, and STEM job training for former military members and unemployed workers. It would also protect high skilled American workers by preventing wages from being undercut, requiring that employers hire American workers first, and prohibiting the displacement of American workers with foreign workers here on a visa.