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Letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Amendments to S. 744

May 17, 2013

Dear Senator: 

On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association, we thank the U.S. Senate “Gang of 8” members for introducing S. 744, Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act .  The introduction of this significant piece of legislation is, in itself, an accomplishment. Educators have witnessed for far too long the impact that the current immigration system has had on our students, their families, and our communities. We applaud the bipartisan leadership demonstrated to reach this historic point. 

In addition, we are delighted to learn that several key provisions important to NEA’s priorities are in the base bill, including: 

  • The DREAM Act provision providing a five year path to citizenship for those who entered the U.S. before age 16 who have either completed high school, earned a G.E.D., earned a college degree or served four years of military service — the most progressive legislative language on the DREAM Act introduced to date;
  • A 13 year pathway to citizenship for individuals already in the U.S. prior to December 31, 2011; and,
  • Improving the focus on children and families by expanding the family unification and reunification provisions.  

These provisions align with NEA’s comprehensive immigration reform priorities — including a pathway to citizenship for the more than 11 million aspiring Americans, expansion of the DREAM Act and ensuring family unity. 

As the bill is moving through markup in the Senate Judiciary Committee, we anticipate several key amendments related to NEA’s priorities will be offered.  Votes associated with this issue may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 113th Congress. 

Specifically, we urge you to vote on the following amendments: 

  • Vote YES on Blumenthal 1: The “Little Dreamers” amendment ensures that young children are not excluded from the DREAM Act’s expedited pathway to citizenship simply because of their age. Specifically, the amendment would allow children who meet the requirements of the DREAM Act and are under the age of 18 upon completing 5 years of registered provisional status to be eligible to transition to lawfully permanent resident status and be immediately eligible for citizenship.  It puts children on par with their DREAMer counterparts for whom the current bill provides an expedited 5 year pathway to citizenship if the individual was brought to the U.S. prior to turning 16.

Several additional amendments have been offered that support NEA priorities; and we urge you to vote the following:

  • Vote YES on Franken 1:  Cosponsored by Sen. Grassley, the “HELP Separated Children Act” amendment works to protect children by allowing parents who become involved in immigration enforcement actions to arrange for child care and participate in any proceedings affecting their children.
  • Vote YES on Leahy 6: The amendment supports LGBT families by permitting permanent partners to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents to seek residency status in the same manner as spouses.
  • Vote YES on Leahy 7: Supports LGBT families by upholding “any marriage entered into full compliance with the laws of the State or foreign country within such marriage was performed.”
  • Vote YES on Hirono 16: The amendment eliminates the 5 year waiting period for health care and nutrition assistance programs such as Medicaid, CHIP and SNAP, for children, pregnant women and lawfully present individuals.
  • Vote YES on Hirono 21:  Students who came to the U.S. as children would be eligible for tuition assistance “provided under title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965,” helping make college more affordable for DREAMers.
  • Vote YES on any amendment that expedites the pathway to citizenship, especially for children.
  • Vote YES on any amendment that promotes or strengthens family unity.
  • Vote YES on any amendment that expands the DREAM Act.  

There have also been several amendments offered that derail or go against NEA priorities; and for those, we urge you to vote the following: 

  • Vote NO on Cruz 2: The amendment prevents aspiring Americans, including children, from ever being eligible for means-tested public benefits, no matter their status in the future.
  • Vote NO on Cruz 3: Simply eradicating any pathway to citizenship, the amendment makes the more than 11 million aspiring Americans ineligible for citizenship.
  • Vote NO on Cruz 4: Making it more difficult for families to stay together, the amendment limits the number of family-sponsored immigrants.
  • Vote NO Grassley 7: Increasing fines to file or renew under Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status or adding fines to qualifying DREAMers where there had been none, the amendment raises roadblocks on the pathway to citizenship for aspiring Americans.
  • Vote NO on Sessions 25, 26, 27 and28: The amendments work to target all aspiring Americans —
  • children and adults — from being eligible for RPI or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status if they are “likely” to qualify for or get federal health or nutrition benefits in the future.
  • Vote NO on Sessions 29: Raising a significant roadblock to citizenship, the amendment raises the income requirement for those adjusting from RPI to LPR status by 400 percent (i.e. $90,000 for a family of four).
  • Vote NO on any amendment that places unduly burdensome restrictions on pathways to citizenship.
  • Vote NO to any amendment that hampers or makes it difficult for families to stay together or reunite.
  • Vote NO to any amendment that threatens the DREAM Act’s accelerated pathway, especially for children.  

We strongly support passage of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act and look forward to continuing to work with you and your staff to strengthen the work of the Gang of 8 as the bill moves through markup and eventually the Senate floor. 

Sincerely, 

Mary Kusler
Director, Government Relations