WASHINGTON -- Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) will push for an amendment to give undocumented children -- or "little Dreamers," as advocates call them -- a pathway to become legal residents more quickly than they currently would under the so-called gang of eight immigration reform bill.
As written now, the bill would give a faster track to citizenship for Dreamers, or undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children and are now over the age of 16. Other undocumented children, however, would go through the same process for legalization as their parents, meaning they would wait more than two times as long to gain benefits granted to legal residents and U.S. citizens.
Blumenthal's amendment, which has not yet been announced but was confirmed by his office, would put undocumented children on the same path as their older counterparts.
The amendment could be discussed as early as Thursday, when the Senate Judiciary Committee -- of which Blumenthal is a member -- will meet for its first markup for the gang of eight bill, "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act." The four Republicans and four Democrats who drafted the legislation have insisted they are open to amendments to their bill but would fight back against anything that appeared to be a poison pill. So far, only one amendment to the bill has been filed, a measure by Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to ban a land border-crossing fee, but many others are expected by the deadline of 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Dream Act-supporting groups have already won one victory in the bill. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a gang of eight member who has pushed for Dreamer legalization for years, included a provision to allow people who came to the U.S. as children to apply even if they are over the age of 30, which would have been the cut-off date had the most recent iteration of the Dream Act been passed.
Those undocumented immigrants would then be eligible apply for a shortened legalization process. While others would need to wait 10 years in provisional status, Dreamers could wait only five before becoming legal permanent residents. The provision would be restricted to Dreamers who entered the U.S. before the age of 16, earned a high school diploma or GED here, and either served in the military for four years or attended college for at least two years. The "Little Dreamers" amendment would allow children who would eventually be eligible for the Dream Act to be treated in functionally the same way.
Blumenthal's amendment is set to be endorsed by more than 125 organizations, including the National Education Association, First Focus Campaign for Children and undocumented youth advocacy group United We Dream.