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Take two (or five or six) on DREAM Act 2013

When 70 percent of the Latino population voted to re-elect President Barack Obama this past November it was a reminder for the president and wake-up call for the Republicans.

President Obama recalled his promise to more than 11 million undocumented Americans uncertain with the status of their citizenship, while his opposing party learned a lesson in the golden rule. Yes, the same rule from second grade: Treat others how you want to be treated. Eleanor Van Buren

In December 2010, Republicans halted immigration reform in a deciding vote of the Senate, 55-41 against the DREAM Act. The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act offered a path to citizenship either through education or military service for young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. Upon striking the act down, Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and head Republican of the Senate Judiciary Committee, remarked, “This bill is a law that at its fundamental core is a reward for illegal assumptions.” An assumption was made then about Latinos, and in turn, during this past election, Latinos made an assumption that a Republican candidate was not the best representative of their cause.

Now, Republicans are willing to look at comprehensive immigration reform. House Representatives from both parties are looking to build from the principles of the DREAM Act and introduce new legislation. Eric Cantor, R-Va., and house majority leader, voted against the act three years ago. Cantor and Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, appreciate the values that legislation such as the DREAM Act propose, like granting opportunity to young families, but remain skeptical of its push from the left side, turning immigration reform into a case of slow politics or no politics.

My fear is that it could be both: a drawn-out debate that finally makes it to the next round only to be crushed. For Boehner, immigration is a “difficult issue,” and for his part, there are many complexities surrounding how this country views immigrants in relation to law enforcement and the economy — whether these people are burdens or boons to what America represents.

In June 2012, Obama issued an executive order, not involving the input of Congress, which temporarily secured the future of 800,000 young Americans who faced potential deportation. Already, Obama has deported 1.1 million illegal immigrants in his tenure, a number exacerbated by the stall of the DREAM Act. If anything, the executive order was an act of humanitarian relief to stop the bleeding. The moratorium on deportation was granted for two years, enough time to encompass a re-election and pass permanent fixtures. So far, Obama has succeeded in the re-election, and another executive order will be put in place if DREAMers, potential beneficiaries of the act, have to continue to wait.

As we are all creatures of sociology, I view the DREAM Act and those affected by its potential outcome, and lack there of, with empathy.

Recently in Oregon, House Bill 2787, which would allow undocumented high school graduates to pay resident tuition rates at the public universities, passed 38-18 in the House. Identical versions of this bill did not make it through both House and Senate in 2009 and 2011, but the emphasis on immigration reform this year in particular has drawn further support.

One of the focal arguments in favor of tuition equity was captured in a statement released by Gov. John Kitzhaber regarding undocumented graduates who qualify, “By removing roadblocks to their post-secondary education, we open new opportunities to them and the opportunity for our state to capitalize on the investment we’ve made in these students through the K-12 system.”

In a report from the Oregon University System, the estimated amount of students entering state universities through the new program could generate $1.9 million for the treasury through their tuition over the next four years. In the United States, we stand for many freedoms. Why not educational freedom?

What gets me most about the DREAM Act and apparent struggle to succeed is the fact that it has turned a basic right, education, into something lost between party lines.

Oregon House Bill 2787 passed in the House and that is great news, but an overwhelming majority of those in favor were Democrats. In fact, all of Oregon’s 33 Democrats supported the bill, while five Republicans went out on a limb.

I don’t care what lens you view immigration through, providing education for these motivated young men and women has the power to bring our values into focus.

Eleanor Van Buren is a senior at Riverdale High School and writes a monthly column for the Review. To contact her, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .




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