White House officials held the third conference call in less than a week to push for passage of the DREAM Act, arguing it will help boost America's military readiness.
The legislation would provide a path to citizenship for young people who were not responsible for immigrating illegally to this country and who want to go to college or join the military. Officials emphasized that it would be a lengthy process that would require a vigorous background check.
The call -- hosted by Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Dr. Clifford Stanley and Cecilia Munoz, the director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the White House -- came ahead of an expected Senate vote on the measure as soon as tomorrow.
"We believe that the prospects for the DREAM Act should be good if we move past politics and look at what's good for the country and what's good for our military readiness, what's good for our competitiveness, what's good for the law enforcement goals that we're trying to achieve," said Munoz. "The DREAM Act ultimately, as you've heard from multiple members of the Cabinet and Cabinet agencies, is good for the economy, it's good for security, it's good for the nation and we believe that if members of Congress put those interests at heart, we will have the votes to pass the DREAM Act this week."
Although President Obama has not spent much time speaking in public about the legislation, administration officials said a great deal of work was going on behind the scenes at the White House and across the country to get the bill passed this year. Officials said the president and Cabinet officials had been making calls to members of Congress and that op-eds from cabinet officials were "in the works." The Democratic National Committee's Organizing for America has also tried to boost the effort, recently sending out a Tweet from the president asking people to get involved in the fight to get the law passed.
The DREAM Act faces difficult odds in the few weeks before Congress breaks for the holidays, as Democrats and Republicans try to strike deals on pressing issues from funding the government, to ratifying the New START arms treaty with Russia, to extending the Bush tax cuts. A deal on the tax cuts appeared all but sealed early this week, but neither house has voted on the matter.
Officials stressed that the DREAM Act was written by Republicans and Democrats and that it has gotten GOP support in the past. It will need Republican support to pass this time around and that support is anything but a sure bet.
Stanley called the act "common sense" and said it would grow the field of potential military recruits by 50,000 to 65,000 each year, the number of undocumented aliens who graduate from high school annually. He said that would go a long way toward helping the military recruit the 300,000 new enlistees needed yearly.
Munoz, who said the bill was a "strong priority for the administration," cited a report by the Migration Policy Institute that estimated about 726,000 undocumented young people would be immediately eligible for conditional legal status and that of those, some 114,000 would be eligible for permanent legal status after a six-year wait because they already have Associate's Degree. According to the same MPI study, three-quarters of potential Dream Act beneficiaries reside in California, Texas, Florida, New York, Arizona, Illinois, New Jersey, Georgia, North Carolina and Colorado.
Twice last week, administration officials took to the telephone to tout the bill. On Friday, Munoz, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, President of Regent University Dr. Carlos Campo, UCLA Chancellor Dr. Gene Block and the President of Miami-Dade College Dr. Eduardo Padron argued that passing the legislation was "critical" to the country's future and its ability to compete in today's global economy.
In that call, Munoz cited a Congressional Budget Office study saying the bill would generate $2.3 billion of revenue over 10 years and reduce the deficit over the same period and Locke emphasized the number of successful companies that were started by immigrants. Yesterday in North Carolina, President Obama himself brought up immigration -- albeit indirectly -- in hailing the work of a pioneering teenage chemist from Texas whose work using light to kill cancer cells has earned accolades, noting that she was "a child of immigrants."
Last Thursday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said passage of the bill would allow the Department of Homeland Security to focus its enforcement resources on removing dangerous criminal aliens from the country.