Democrats reintroduced the DREAM Act into the Senate Wednesday, which two UCLA professors said is unlikely to pass through Congress.
But the move is a step forward toward making the legislation law, or at least keeping the debate alive, said Abel Valenzuela, professor and chair of the UCLA CÃ©sar E. ChÃ¡vez Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies.
“It’s important to have the vote so that the debate stays front and center,” Valenzuela said.
The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors bill would create a route to citizenship for undocumented students who immigrated to the U.S. before the age of 16. The bill failed in Congress last year. This is its first reappearance since that time.
The national bill will have a tougher time passing through Congress than before, especially in the House of Representatives, because there are more Republicans, said RaÃºl Hinojosa-Ojeda, a professor of Chicana/o Studies.
However, some Republicans who voted against the bill last year are rethinking their positions, afraid to alienate the Latino block of voters, Hinojosa-Ojeda said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D”“Nev.) introduced the bill in response to President Barack Obama’s speech on immigration reform in El Paso last week. This is the first time during the Obama administration that the president and Congressional Democrats have thrown their full support behind immigration reform, Hinojosa-Ojeda said.
It is uncertain whether the measure will pass before the 2012 presidential election, but momentum is building behind the bill, he added.
The last major immigration overhaul was the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, Valenzuela said. That bill took multiple years to work its way through the legislature, failing numerous times in the Senate, he said.
“Bringing the DREAM Act back again, it’s really part of our legislative process,” Valenzuela said.
Cristopher Santos, external vice president of the Undergraduate Students Association Council, said he sees the introduction of the bill as more of a political maneuver by the Democrats than a commitment to helping undocumented students.
Although he said he thinks the re-introduction of the bill is a good thing for undocumented students, Santos said he wants to make sure the government follows through on its promises to Latino voters.
The California equivalent of the national DREAM Act consists of two bills, AB 130 and AB 131. The first bill, passed in the State Assembly last week, would allow undocumented students access to institutional financial aid. The second bill would give undocumented students state-funded financial aid.
With reports by Devin Kelly, Bruin senior staff.