The DREAM Act passed in the U.S. House Wednesday night despite opposition to amnesty and provisions that may allow criminals to apply for the pathway to citizenship.
The DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act was voted forward by the U.S. Representative by a 216 to 198 vote. If passed in the Senate and approved by President Barack Obama, the bill would offer undocumented immigrants that grew up in America a path to citizenship through college or the military.
Despite the passage, the House was engulfed in spirited debate on both sides of the aisle about bill provisions that may allow for blanket amnesty.
Rep. Steve King (R-IA), a ranking member of the House Immigration Subcommittee, argued forcefully that the bill is amnesty.
Ranking Judiciary Member Lamar Smith (R-TX) voiced strong objections that the DREAM legislation would grant work authorization for illegal aliens at a time when the unemployment rate currently stands at nearly 10 percent.
Rep. Smith further argued that the DREAM Act would allow beneficiaries to sponsor their family members upon reaching the age of 21. He also highlighted the numerous loopholes in the bill, including a provision he believes would allow criminals to apply.
The bill has been amended several times. In the most recent version of the bill, the bill allows undocumented immigrants up to age 30 to be eligible for conditional non-immigrant status, allowing recipients to temporarily stay in the U.S. legally if they have been living in the U.S. continuously for at least five years, and were brought to the United States before they were 16.
They also must earn a high school diploma or GED and college/military acceptance. Dream recipients would then be able to gain permanent resident status and apply for citizenship after 10 years or two years of military service.
However, provisions would allow anyone to apply, including those with criminal backgrounds.
Mario H. Lopez, president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund objects to this provision, calling it "unsavory" because it will lump hard-working immigrants in with criminals. Lopez believes the negative provision makes the legislation hard to digest and unlikely to pass.
President Obama has praised Congress for passing the legislation and is urging the U.S. Senate to pass the measure. Republicans there have promised to block the measure.
Lopez explained that Democrats simply passed the legislation to gain Hispanic sympathies come election time. He said he is tired of politicians using the Hispanic community as a political football.
Supporters have long called for the legislation to be approved and remain hopeful. The Rev. Troy Jackson of University Christian Church in Cincinnati participated in a press conference last month calling for the bill's approval. He said that offering undocumented youngsters a path to permanent residency is a demonstration of Christian love and compassion.
While other evangelicals have denounced the measure as amnesty, Jackson asks, what is so wrong with amnesty?
In a Tuesday blog post, he wrote, "At the core of the Christian faith is amnesty. Why is this a bad word? Amnesty is not bad. Amnesty is grace. Amnesty is something we ought to be speaking into the public debate with passion, because we are recipients of God love, grace, and mercy in our lives. All who have become followers of Jesus Christ have been granted amnesty."
The measure is expected to be debated on the Senate floor as early as Friday.