(CNSNews.com) – Education Secretary Arne Duncan joined a few Republican activists Monday to say he would press lawmakers to support the DREAM Act during the lame duck session of Congress. The bill would provide legal status to illegal aliens who fulfill certain requirements.
Stressing that in a “knowledge-based economy” there is “no job out there” for someone with only a high school diploma, Duncan said that some students with a 3.5 grade point average are unable to attend college because of their immigration status.
“We have to educate our way to a better economy,” Duncan told reporters in a conference call sponsored by Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
“A lot of young people are desperately trying for a better life, desperately trying to serve their community,” Duncan added. “I want to do everything in my power to help them do that.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reportedly has said he is determined to bring the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act to the Senate floor during the lame duck session.
The proposal gives legal status to illegal aliens who came to the country with their parents as children if they fulfill two years of college or two years of uniformed service. Completion of a degree is not required, and uniformed service could include either military service or for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It also allows states to provide in-state tuition to illegal aliens.
Already, 10 U.S.C. Section 504 allows the Secretary of Defense to authorize the enlistment of illegal aliens, who once enlisted can become naturalized citizens in expedited proceedings.
Carlos Gutierrez, commerce secretary under George W. Bush, said the DREAM Act is important, but that it is only a first step. “The expectation of our community, the business community, should be about what happens with comprehensive immigration reform,” Gutierrez said in the conference call. “This should not be a substitute for comprehensive immigration reform.”
Carlos Campo, president of the evangelical Regent University, stressed there is a faith component to the measure. "Spiritually, economically, governmentally, every aspect of the DREAM Act makes sense,” Campo told reporters. “We’ve made a huge investment in these people already. To deny them a college education makes no sense.”
The House bill has no age limit, but the Senate bill sets an age limit of 35 to benefit from the DREAM Act.
The measure has twice cleared the Judiciary Committee and was part of the Senate immigration bills in 2006 and 2007. Most of the support comes from Democrats, but Duncan cited the support of Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) for the proposal.
Certain criminal aliens would be eligible for legal status under the DREAM Act, according to the office of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. This would include alien gang members and aliens with misdemeanor convictions, aliens who engaged in voter fraud or aliens who engaged in marriage fraud.
At least 2.1 million illegal aliens will be eligible for the DREAM Act, according to the Migration Policy Institute.