Durbin's move is the second step in the Democratic Party's kabuki courtship of Latino voters ahead of the 2012 elections, which began with Barack Obama's bogus immigration speech yesterday.
The DREAM Act, if passed, would allow undocumented youth meeting certain requirements to continue their lives in the United States and begin the long process of becoming citizens. Supporters of the legislation argue it will boost America's economy and military by allowing talented -- but undocumented -- young folks to legally integrate into society. Critics claim it will inspire "chain migration" to the United States, as Texas Representative Lamar Smith recently argued in a Washington D.C. daily.
Merits aside, the bill is unlikely to pass, and its introduction isn't much more than a gesture of support from Democrats to Latinos.
According to Senator Durbin, the bill is limited to immigrants who came to the United States before they were 15, have lived in the country for at least five years, "have good moral character," graduated from high school, and then either completed two years of college or joined the military.
The House of Representatives passed the DREAM Act last fall, but the bill failed in the Senate. It did receive 55 votes, a majority in the upper chamber but not enough to break a Republican filibuster.
Local activist Carmen Cornejo is a full-time booster of the DREAM Act with CADENA, an association of teachers, parents and activists who support the legislation. She sees the bill's re-introduction of the legislation as a positive step but considers the bill "long overdue."
"We are eager to work in a bi-partisan manner so Congress can pass this long overdue piece of legislation soon," Cornejo tells New Times. "We want to bring American-raised young talent and human resources to the workforce and the military of our nation. We understand that is always an uphill battle, but each time we are better prepared and more sophisticated in the use of our own resources."
The DREAM Act is unlikely to become law given the current makeup of the Congress and the anti-immigrant mood in the country. It was first introduced in 2001, steadily gaining support up until its defeat in the Senate last December. Cornejo understands that the current makeup of Congress makes passage unlikely but believes the legislation will pass one day.
"It is not a matter of 'if' the DREAM Act will pass but 'when,'" she argues. "The recognition of hard work, self-determination and the possibilities of a better future for all our communities embodied by the DREAMers is what makes the USA so special and singular in the world."
Slate ran a provocative commentary yesterday arguing that foreign-immigrant students and businessmen will save the American economy if we make it easier for them to become Americans. Wonder what would happen if we'd allow talented young people who are already here to use their talents instead of deporting them?