Putting Education Reform To The Test

Prompted By Presidential Debates, Congressman Introduces New DREAM Act

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U.S. Rep. David Rivera has introduced a new version of the DREAM Act.

U.S. Rep. David Rivera of Miami has taken a cue from the presidential contenders and introduced a new version of the DREAM Act providing a fast-track citizenship path for those who enter the military.

The original DREAM Act would have provided a citizenship track for the children of undocumented immigrants who had lived in the U.S. for years and enrolled in college or signed up for the U.S. military.

The bill could also mean access to in-state tuition rates in Florida. Florida does not grant in-state tuition unless a student (and sometimes their parents) can prove citizenship.

The bill passed a Democrat-controlled U.S. House in 2010, but died in the the Senate. Republicans subsequently took control of the House and the bill has languished.

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich reiterated his support for the idea at Monday’s Tampa debate. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney quickly followed suit, clarifying — or reversing, if you’re less generous — his earlier position that he would veto the DREAM Act if elected president.

Those statements gave Rivera new hope, he told the Miami Herald.

Rivera said he’d been quietly working on immigration reform since he came to Congress a year ago. He said he decided to go with the military-only piece because it already had the support of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — the GOP candidate who Rivera is backing in Tuesday’s Florida primary. But it also got a nod from former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney during Monday’s presidential debate in Florida…

His own bill doesn’t ensure automatic residency, Rivera said. Applicants would need to meet a set of preliminary criteria to be considered for the program, and once accepted, demonstrate good moral conduct and a record of service in the United States military to then be eligible for legal status.

Because the DREAM Act won’t pass as the bill currently exits, said Rivera, why not try to get a bill that would pass.

“There’s also a lot to be said for victory-by-victory, year-by-year,” he said. “Laying the groundwork could very much expedite those reforms in the future.”

Now maybe Rivera can get a little more love from the presidential hopefuls. As many in the national press noted, Rivera was one of the few Florida Hispanic elected officials not name-checked during Thursday’s debate in Jacksonville.


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