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DREAM Act Provides Insight for Agriculture’s Immigration Reform Efforts

May 14, 2012

If Congress can enact the DREAM Act, it would demonstrate that reforming immigration is not impossible, only impossibly slow. It should also put agriculture next in line. 

Miltner photo   CopyBy Ryan Miltner, attorney
 
Cinco de Mayo was nearly two weeks ago. President Obama used the occasion to encourage Congress to pass the DREAM Act.  In short, the DREAM Act would provide students who have been brought into the country illegally an opportunity to obtain legal status if they serve two years in the military or four years in college. The minors would have to have been in the United States for at least five years before the passage of the Act.
 
The group that would benefit from the proposed new law is quite possibly the most sympathetic group in the entire debate over immigration reform. For that reason, it is generally thought that the DREAM Act is the most likely piece of targeted immigration reform to have a chance at passage.
 
The consensus is that if Congress would not act to provide residency to children who broke no laws of their own volition, have a background without significant blemish, and agree to serve this nation or obtain a higher education, then the chances of a broader bill are miniscule. 
In the last Congress, while the House of Representatives passed a version of the bill, the Democrat-controlled Senate was unable to even bring the measure to a vote. Instead, it was filibustered.

On several occasions, the President has called on Congress to take action on the bill, citing moral and humanitarian obligations to passing the bill. Thus far, Congress has declined the opportunity. 
 
Meanwhile, Republican Senator Marco Rubio is working on alternative DREAM Act. The key difference between the existing bill and the one forthcoming from Senator Rubio is the “pathway to citizenship” provisions. While the original DREAM Act would allow for those who complete military service or their education to become citizens, Rubio’s alternative will purportedly allow application for citizenship but with no guarantee. The National Journal reports that in a survey, 49% of voters prefer the guaranteed citizenship option, while 35% prefer Rubio’s alternative. 
 
Now, as I interpret those survey numbers, that means that a full 84% of those surveyed believe that some kind of DREAM Act is desired. If that is the case, then we should see something passed, right?  Well, it is an election year, and the Congress has not exactly been keen on compromise for the sake of public majority desires lately.
 
If there can be a DREAM Act enacted, however, then it would at least demonstrate that reforming immigration is not impossible, only impossibly slow. It should also put agriculture next in line as the group to be addressed.  Since comprehensive immigration legislation is certainly not going to happen, those in agriculture needing workers should be hoping for this dream to come true.
 
Ryan Miltner is an agricultural and estate planning lawyer in private practice. His agricultural practice is focused on dairy policy and the economic regulation of the dairy industry. The opinions in this article are his own observations prepared for Dairy Today and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any of his clients. Contact him at ryan@miltnerlawfirm.com.
 
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