The US House of Representatives [official website] on Wednesday approved a bill [legislative materials; text] that would provide a path to permanent resident status for some high school graduates who enter the military or enroll in a college degree program. The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, would amend the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 [text, PDF] to allow certain children of illegal immigrants an opportunity to achieve legal residency. The bill was previously defeated in Congress in 2007, but reintroduced [JURIST reports] in October by US Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official profiles] as part of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010 [legislative materials], which includes several bills that, if passed, would greatly change US immigration [JURIST news archive] law. Rights groups like the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) [advocacy website] have praised the vote, highlighting the need to keep young people in the country to advance ingenuity in high education and service in the military. Thomas Saenz, President and General Counsel for MALDEF, further said that the bill "vindicates longstanding national, constitutional values to embrace newcomers and to reject cross-generational punishment." The Senate was originally scheduled to vote on the bill Thursday, but the vote was canceled, which likely pushed the Senate's consideration of the bill into early next year.
Illegal immigration continues to be a concern for local governments, as the federal government has failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation. Earlier this week, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments [JURIST report] on whether an Arizona statute imposing sanctions on employers that hire illegal immigrants is preempted by federal law. Last month, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard arguments on another controversial Arizona immigration law, SB 1070 [materials, JURIST news archive]. Also in November, the Nebraska Supreme Court declined to rule [JURIST report] on a local ordinance banning the hiring, harboring or renting of property to illegal immigrants. In September, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled [JURIST report] that two ordinances passed by the city of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, making it more difficult for illegal immigrants to live or work in the town, are unconstitutional.