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Dream Act Still a Dream of Obama

Washington, D.C. – The Obama administration will keep immigration reform as a “top priority” and is looking for bipartisan support to re-introduce the DREAM Act in Congress, a White House official said Tuesday.

Cecilia Munoz, the administration’s director of intergovernmental affairs, said that despite Republican “logjams” in the Senate, comprehensive immigration reform that includes the DREAM Act is “going to remain a top priority of the administration.”

A Republican filibuster last month prevented a Senate vote on the DREAM Act, which would give U.S. citizenship to certain immigrants who complete a two-year college degree or two years of military service. The measure (officially named the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act), would also repeal a federal regulation penalizing states that provide in-state tuition without factoring immigration status. 

Republicans who oppose the measure say it would encourage more illegal immigration and take away opportunities for U.S. students.

Munoz, who served as President Obama’s immigration adviser for his 2008 campaign, made the remarks after her keynote address to kick off a panel discussion entitled, “Improving the Economic Well-Being of Latino Kids,” hosted by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. The panel discussed the concerns of Latino families, possible solutions and how those solutions fit into the national economic picture.

Included in the discussion was the release of a policy brief – co-authored by the liberal think-tank Center for American Progress and Latino civil rights group National Council of La Raza – which shows that the poverty rate among Latino children hit 33 percent in 2009, the highest level since 1997.

The child poverty rate has been rising overall, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released last month and summarized here, with about one-fifth of the nation’s children living in poverty. The rates are highest among African-Americans and Hispanics.

The 11-page brief released Tuesday discusses several government programs that could better help to reduce that rate, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), unemployment insurance and the earned income tax credit. The authors say that SNAP would have greater impact on Latino youth if their parents’ immigration status was not a barrier in the application process.  

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