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Senate prepares to vote on DREAM Act

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With Congress approving its tax bill this week, the Obama administration is now focused on passing the DREAM Act, which is up for vote in the Senate on Saturday.
President Barack Obama and top-level members of his administration are working the phones today to encourage Senators to vote for the bill—the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act—which has several times been on the cusp of passing.
 
Earlier this week, the White House posted on its blog a series of opinion pieces from several Cabinet members—Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Defense Under Secretary Clifford Stanley, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder—on the importance of passing the DREAM Act.
 
The bill would provide a path for legal residency to qualifying undocumented individuals who first entered the country before age 16 and have lived here at least the last five years. To qualify for permanent legal residency, they must complete at least two years of higher education or military service during a conditional period.
 
The administration has touted the benefits of the DREAM Act, from national security and military readiness, to economic competitiveness, noted Cecilia Muñoz, White House director of intergovernmental affairs.
 
“We will stay mobilized until the vote,” she said during a conference call on Friday with reporters.
 
Duncan, who also participated in the conference call, emphasized the importance of passing the bill, even if it might seem difficult during a lame-duck session.
 
“There is a real sense of urgency,” he said. “Let’s get it done.”
 
He noted the issue is personal for him. During his days heading Chicago schools, he saw many students with good grades and a good work unable to attend college because they were undocumented—and many of them didn’t know they were not U.S. citizens until they applied to college.
 
“It was devastating to see those dreams go away,” Duncan said.
 
The bill would allow some 65,000 additional students each year to attend college, he said.
 
The House passed its version of the bill last week. If the Senate passes the legislation, it goes to the president for his signature.
The bill has been a top legislative priority for the American Association of Community Colleges since it was first introduced in 2001.
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