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After a two-hour debate in the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday, including an impassioned speech from Colorado Congressman Jared Polis, the DREAM Act passed by a vote of 216-198. The bill, which provides an opportunity for in-state college tuition to undocumented immigrant students who meet various conditions, went through on mainly partisan lines, though 38 Democrats voted against it and eight Republicans voted for it, notes Politico.
“This is a historic vote, a major victory for thousands of students who want to serve our nation and theirs by going to college or by military service,” Julien Ross, executive director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, tells The Denver Post. Polis, a Boulder Democrat, calls the act “one of the most important pieces of legislation I’ve ever discussed on the floor of the House…. To them and all of us it is supremely important and supremely urgent. We have a choice between forcing the brain drain from our country or retaining the best and brightest to contribute to our country and make it stronger and more prosperous” (via video).
But Representative Mike Coffman, who represents Colorado’s 6th Congressional District, thinks if the act becomes law, it would be a “nightmare for the American people” (via news release). “No doubt, we need immigration reform, but the Dream Act is written far too broadly, and it will only encourage more illegal immigration, promote chain migration, and will be a magnet for fraud.”
The legislation now faces a major hurdle: the U.S. Senate. Colorado’s two senators, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both Democrats, are co-sponsors of the legislation in the Senate. “Support for the DREAM Act is not only a matter of conscience for me, since it’s the right thing to do,” Bennet says. “It’s also a practical solution” (via The Colorado Independent). Advocacy surrounding DREAM has been at fever pitch the past few months, with immigrant-rights groups even calling upon city governments to express their support through passing resolutions. The effort has received mixed results locally, notes a separate article from the Independent, with Boulder, Denver, Pueblo, and Yuma voting in favor, while the Longmont City Council recently rejected it.