DREAM Act Fails to Pass Again in December 2010

In the latest defeat of efforts toward positive immigration reform, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act failed to pass the Senate on December 18, 2010. This marked the last chance to pass immigration benefits measures during the 111th Congress. The DREAM Act was initially introduced in 2001, and efforts to make it a reality have unfortunately ended with defeat, yet again. Following is a summary of its concepts and provisions for the benefit of our readers. [More on the recent path of the DREAM Act can be found on the MurthyBlog.]

Overview: Conditional Legal Status for Certain Children

– The DREAM Act, is a bill that would have offered immigration relief to a limited group of undocumented foreign nationals.

– The beneficiaries would have been foreign nationals who entered as children under the age of 16 and have been in the country for at least five years.

– If enacted, the Senate version of the bill would have required the individuals to be under 30-years of age at the time of enactment.

– The bill also would have required applicants to complete a high school diploma or GED program and demonstrate good moral character as a minimum requirement for conditional temporary, nonimmigrant status.

In order to move to a permanent status, the students would have had to attend college or serve in the U.S. military for two years. They would also have had to pass criminal background screening. This would have beeen a one-time fix for students, not an ongoing option, potentially encouraging unauthorized immigration in the United States.

DREAM Act Bill Passed by U.S. House of Representatives

The DREAM Act proposal was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on December 8, 2010 by a vote of 216-198. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) attempted to use a Senate procedure known as cloture to limit the debate time on the bill and force a vote before Congress adjourned. On December 18, 2010, the effort to end the debate and force a vote failed. The final vote tally was just five votes short of the sixty votes needed to allow the Senate to consider the bill.

Reduced Chances of DREAM Act Passage in 112th Congress

The 112th Congress will begin in January 2011, with fewer Democrats and more Republicans among its ranks. The efforts to pass this legislation, or any other immigration-related legislation, will have start anew with the 112th Congressional session. Many pundits and analysts believe, however, that favorable immigration legislation, including the DREAM Act, is even less likely to be passed by in the new Congress, given the increase in Republicans, who tend to less favorable towards pro-immigration policy.

Differences in Versions of DREAM Bills

Even supporters of the DREAM Act had different views as to the programs that the enacted legislation would have created. For example, each version of the legislation carried provisions for a grant of conditional nonimmigrant status. There were differences as to the length of this period, however, or whether there would be two separate periods of shorter duration. There were also differences in the fees and/or penalties to be charged in connection with the benefits applications.

There have also been controversies regarding the age limits of qualified applicants. Immigration restrictionist groups have seized on this particular issue. The requirement for completion of military service or attending at least two years of college has had more uniform agreement. All versions required multiple steps prior to any grant of more permanent immigration benefits.

President Obama / Secretary of Labor Solis Support DREAM

The DREAM Act would have allowed young adults, primarily students, who have been raised and educated in the United States, to continue to pursue higher education and contribute to the U.S. economically and as members of society with legal status. Rather than languish without opportunities, many of these bright young people would have earned the chance to better themselves and use their talents to better the United States.

President Obama characterized the defeat as “incredibly disappointing.” Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis opined that, “A tremendous opportunity has been lost in America.” She stated that the Act would have strengthened our economy and the U.S. workforce. She referenced the Congressional Budget Office study reflecting an anticipated deficit reduction of $2.2 billion, had the measure been enacted. Some of this is the natural result of college graduates having greater earnings and tax-paying potential than those who are not granted that opportunity.

DREAM Does Not Affect Employment or Family Immigration

Most MurthyDotCom and MurthyBulletin readers are more interested in immigration reform that would allow for more family- or employment-based immigration or other enhancements to the current system. The DREAM Act would not only have applied to young adults who entered the United States without authorization, however. It would not have been usable only by young adults from a particular country of origin or ethnic group. The DREAM Act would have applied to children who have come to the United States legally, but were no longer in status. This could have happen due to the oversight of their parents, or their parents’ own immigration problems. Such children are usually blameless for their predicament. There can be a snowball effect when positive immigration reform leads to positive changes, rather than the doom-and-gloom that is predicted by opponents.


Failure to pass the DREAM Act continues to reflect the wide discord in opinion on immigration within the United States. Attitudes toward immigration benefits become restrictive during times of economic struggle. Thus, the DREAM Act is set aside, once again. We at the Murthy Law Firm will continue to update our readers on significant legislative developments affecting immigration. The DREAM Act symbolized hope for young people in America and for a brighter future for all Americans.

Copyright © 2010, MURTHY LAW FIRM. All Rights Reserved

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.