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DREAM Act Makes History in House, Given New Life in Senate

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Trivia question for all you policy wonks: before the DREAM Act passed Wednesday night, when was the last time you read the headline, “House passes historic immigration bill?”

Answer: December 16, 2005.

But December 16, 2005, was a night that lives in political infamy among supporters of progressive immigration reform. That was the night the Republican-controlled House passed a notoriously anti-immigrant bill authored by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI).

The Sensenbrenner bill would have turned undocumented workers and anyone who helped them – including their priests and pastors— into felons. It was also the day that the Republican Party made a dangerous move: siding with its hard-core nativist wing over moderate members and Latino voters. The Sensenbrenner bill sparked a backlash that continues to fester. It became one of the reasons Republicans lost control of Congress in 2006, lost the White House in 2008, and lost the chance to take back the Senate in 2010.

This week, however, after years of organizing, citizenship drives and voter mobilization, the words, “House passes historic immigration bill” finally took on a tone of courage and hope. The DREAM Act passed the House on Wednesday by a 216 – 198 margin. Eight brave Republicans joined with most Democrats to stand up for high-achieving young people who are American in all but paperwork. The measure even attracted support from a number of conservative Democrats, some of whom, like Chet Edwards (D-TX) took to the House floor to speak on its behalf.

The House-passed DREAM Act would turn a highly deserving group of undocumented young people who want to go to college or serve in the military into legal residents and eventually citizens. Authored by Reps. Howard Berman (D-CA), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), and Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), the DREAM Act allows young people who were brought to the U.S. as children, grew up as Americans, and did everything asked of them a chance to become citizens and give back to the only country they call home. It is estimated that some 800,000 young people — all of whom who are here and have lived here for at least five years – will qualify.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi even took to the House floor to make a passionate speech for DREAM :