The DREAM Act has been deliberated before, in 2010, but now it has a second chance at passing as it has been reintroduced in the Senate with bipartisan support. But if the bill isn't passed before 2017 is out, tens of thousands of Dreamers will become eligible for deportation.
Radio Sputnik's Fault Lines with Garland Nixon and Lee Stranahan interviewed Erika Andiola, a Dreamer and the former Political Director for pro-Bernie Sanders political action group Our Revolution.
"Before talking to political figures or the party, the most important thing for us is speaking to the American people, to have Americans really hear our story," Andiola said. "A lot of people didn't know who we were, calling us illegals or criminals. all kinds of words that really hurt to us. But we came out of the shadows, we told our stories, and a lot of Americans really support us. Over 70 percent of Americans have said on polls that they would support the DREAM Act."
"There's bipartisan support: there are Republicans who have come out and supported the bill in the Senate. The DREAM Act was introduced by [Illinois Democratic Senator Dick] Durbin and [South Carolina Republican Senator] Lindsey Graham, so there is bipartisan support. Right now the problem is that the bill and this entire issue have always been used as a political football. In 2010 we were five votes shy of passing the bill in the Senate. There's really no reason why it didn't pass other than the fact that there's political games happening in Washington."
For their latest attempt, Andiola said, the DREAM Act's supporters are being more careful. "We are counting how many members of Congress support it, to make sure that we have enough votes. The reality is that we have enough Republicans. I don't know if you heard the news, but a couple of days ago 34 Republicans signed a letter asking [Republican Speaker of the House] Paul Ryan to support the DREAM Act."
"The issue is that we have to have somebody in leadership. We have to have Paul Ryan or [Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell willing to actually give the bill a chance to be heard on the floor."
But even if Republican leaders refuse to have the bill heard on the floor, Andiola said there may be a way to circumvent them.
"Right now, the only one we have is a budget, and so even Republicans who have said, 'let's pass the bill through the budget.' There's a ton of Democrats who have said that, including Bernie Sanders. It's in the budget bill because the leadership refuses to bring it bring it out to the floor, so this is the only chance we have."
Overall, Andiola was optimistic about passing the DREAM Act before the year is out, provided Democratic support doesn't waver. "We have a lot of support from Republicans, and all Democrats always say that they support the undocumented and immigrant communities. There's enough Democrats now to tell the GOP, 'look, if you want our vote, which you need to be able to pass a budget bill, then you're gonna have to support the DREAM act in the budget.'"
"In terms of numbers, Republicans need Democrats in the House and the Senate to be able to pass a budget bill before the end of the year. It's important to people like me because there's a hundred thousand people like myself who are about to lose our entire protection. We're going to be deported," Andiola warned.