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Senate Makes Steps to Vote On DREAM Act

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act is coming to Congress next week, and it could mean a path to citizenship for close to a million undocumented young people.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid announced his intention to present DREAM as an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill on Tuesday.

The DREAM act provides a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who came here before the age of 16, provided they attend college or serve in the military.

Granted, the DREAM act isn't a silver bullet. Though there are around 2.1 million undocumented young people who could stand to benefit from this legislation, barriers to citizenship put the number of people who will gain status around 825,000, according to a report from the Migration Policy Institute (h/t to Adam Serwer at The American Prospect).

But it is a good first step toward getting immigration reform back on the political agenda. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus recently came out in favor of passing DREAM as a first step in their four-part plan to move on comprehensive immigration reform.

Though the Defense Authorization Bill is considered a 'must-pass' bill, it's not a sure thing that the DREAM Act will get through.  The DREAM act needs 60 votes to be approved as an amendment, and if it passes, the Defense Authorization Bill has to go back to the House for final approval.  DREAM could still be stripped from the bill in the House.

Basically, the next week is a crucial time to show popular support for the DREAM act and encourage senators to vote yes — and activists are emphasizing the role students can play in putting pressure on their congressmen. DREAMactivist.org has scripts on their website for supporters to calling up their senators and tell them to support the amendment.

And popular support does count — the fact that the DREAM Act is coming to Congress after a big push of grassroots activism over the past few months that sent the message to politicians that this is what voters want.

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