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National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health decries Senate failure to advance the DREAM Act

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Despite herculean effort by our grassroots activists- including gathering 1,800 letters in just two days in Texas - the Senate failed to take up the Department of Defense reauthorization bill which stopped the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) (S.729) from a vote this week.

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health is deeply disappointed by the politicians who disregarded the desire of their constituents to give undocumented youth, who have grown up in the United States, the means to step out of the shadows, pursue education, and accomplish their goals.  NLIRH would like to applaud the efforts of Senators Harry Reid (NV) and Richard Durbin (IL) for their leadership in advocating for the DREAM Act and the millions of young people that the bill would benefit.  Educational attainment is one way that Latinas can have access to information, resources and services that will help them make informed and autonomous decisions.

The DREAM Act, introduced by Senator Richard Durbin, is a bill that would give undocumented immigrants who entered the United States before age 16 a path to citizenship.  Youth who have lived in the United States for at least five years and have been “person[s] of good moral character” have the opportunity to apply for conditional permanent residency for up to eight years, during which they are expected to complete either two years of a bachelor’s degree program in good standing or two years of military service that have not resulted in dishonorable discharge.  Through the DREAM Act, an undocumented youth who adjusts status to lawful permanent residence would then be eligible for student loans and the work-study program, programs for which undocumented persons are not currently eligible.  The completion of either of these gives undocumented youth the opportunity to remove the conditional status of their permanent residency, thereby gaining legal permanent residency and the ability to apply for citizenship when eligible and if desired.

In the future sessions, we encourage lawmakers to review several points of concern in the DREAM Act that specifically impact Latinas:

  • Young Latina immigrants must be presented with both the military and school options equally weighted; and     
  • Adequate protection must be included in the DREAM Act so that enlisted Latina immigrants will not jeopardize their legal status if they bring a claim of sexual assault or rape against their perpetrators while serving in the military. 

Because of the tremendous showing of support from Latina advocates, NLIRH has already started to have conversations with Democrat and Republican legislators that are interested in implementing these changes in the future.

NLIRH will continue to extend its support to the DREAM Act and activists and legislators who have tried to create a much-needed route to citizenship in a country that many immigrant youth call home. Everyone, including immigrants, deserves to live free from discrimination, oppression and violence in all forms. That's why we will forge ahead with our work with the Administration and lawmakers toward the goal of true comprehensive immigration reform for immigrant women and their children by promoting and defending equality for all immigrants.