May, the deadline by which advocates had hoped comprehensive immigration reform legislation would be introduced in Congress, has come and gone. It is time to accept that no matter how badly the nation needs this reform, Washington does not have the political will to act on such a divisive issue. So it is time to change tactics. Leaders of the immigration reform movement, who so far have insisted on pushing for an omnibus package of bills, should heed the young people in their ranks calling for a stand-alone effort to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors legislation, or the DREAM Act.
The bill would give undocumented young people the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency (which can lead to legal permanent residency and then citizenship) if they graduate from U.S. high schools, have been in the country continuously at least five years before the legislation's enactment, and meet certain post-secondary educational or military service requirements. This is the only aspect of immigration reform — other than those related to enforcement — with any steam behind it. Backers of the bill — known among themselves as "Dreamers" — have been fasting and marching and demonstrating for months. Some have publicly outed themselves as undocumented. They have put faces and names to the 65,000 students who graduate each year from high school into permanent limbo, unable either to work legally or, often, go to college.