The Congresswoman opened the floor by discussing various merits of the DREAM Act, a bill that would allow for certain children of undocumented workers to obtain permanent residency status by (amongst other things) completing two years of school at an accredited four-year university or serving two years in the military. The bill was killed by filibuster last month in Congress.
Regarding the potential beneficiaries of the DREAM Act, Representative Lofgren said, “They are de facto Americans. These guys have done everything they were supposed to do; they got good grades, they played by the rules.”
As the senior Democrat on the Immigration Sub-committee in the House of Representatives, Lofgren played a key role in conferencing with both parties to push the DREAM Act through Congress.
Calling the most recent DREAM Act “the most conservative version” considered thus far, Rep. Lofgren said revisions ensured beneficiaries would be ineligible for entitlement programs. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office predicts the bill would increase federal revenues by $2.4 billion and decrease the federal deficit by $1.4 billion.
She claimed the media’s accusations denouncing the bill as amnesty were not true. “See, for amnesty, you have to have an offense, and if you’re five years old, you can’t be held responsible for your parents’ decisions.” She also dismissed claims that the DREAM Act would create fewer slots in colleges for Americans or that chain immigration would be encouraged.
The congresswoman was passionate and informed, and discussed many possible options for immigration reform. After citing the high numbers of deportations, audits, and detainments in recent years, she called for a concentration on violent lawbreakers. “No one’s saying ‘Don’t enforce the law,’ but our resources should be used in a way that best benefits the interests of America,” she said.
The Congresswoman was very civil and often praised individual Republicans, many of whom she counts as friends. “They are trying to do what’s right,” she said at one point. “These aren’t bad people; they just have different ideas for going about things than we do.” Indeed, she lamented the fact that the DREAM Act was once very bipartisan and even sponsored by Republicans such as Orrin Hatch of Utah and Presidential candidate John McCain. “Whatever our differences are on immigration policy, this should be the one area we agree,” she summarized.
She didn’t appear too confident that any sort of immigration reform would get passed this year with the new tea-party heavy Congress.
A short question and answer session followed Rep. Lofgren’s speech. When one student asked what they could do to help the DREAM Act, the Congresswoman said sharing stories with representatives are more effective than sit-ins or fasts, though these help as well. “Let’s give them the information that enacts change,” she concluded.