Wednesday, November 24, 2010

THE DREAM ACT, THE HOPE ACT, & SETTLING LAWSUITS APPEAR ON THE SENATE HORIZON NEXT WEEK's the Huddle is reporting that Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid will bring up three measures next week: the DREAM Act, a bill to give permanent resident status to Haitian orphans now living in the U.S., and, hopefully, a Pigford/Cobell settlement measure.

S.3827, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, was introduced by Democratic Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, with two cosponsors. The premise is simple, we don't throw the babies out with the bathwater. This bill speaks to the issues faced by children of illegal aliens.

The Congressional Research Summary, CRS, provides this summary of the bill. The DREAM Act amends the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 by repealing the provision making unlawful aliens ineligible for higher education benefits based on state residence unless a U.S. citizen or national is eligible for such benefits without regard to state residence.

Authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) to cancel the removal of, and adjust to conditional permanent resident status, an alien who: (1) entered the United States before his or her 16th birthday and has been present in the United States for at least five years immediately preceding this Act's enactment; (2) is a person of good moral character; (3) is not inadmissible or deportable under specified grounds of the Immigration and Nationality Act; (4) has been admitted to an institution of higher education (IHE) or has earned a high school or equivalent diploma; (5) from the age of 16 and older, has never been under a final order of exclusion, deportation, or removal; and (6) was under age 35 on the date of this Act's enactment.

Requires aliens to apply for such adjustment of status within one year of being admitted to an IHE or earning a high school or equivalent diploma. Sets forth conditions for maintaining such status and having its conditional basis removed.

Authorizes an alien who has satisfied the appropriate requirements before this Act's enactment to petition the Secretary for conditional permanent resident status.

Provides for: (1) exclusive jurisdiction; (2) penalties for false application statements; (3) confidentiality; (4) higher education assistance; and (5) a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report respecting the number of aliens adjusted under this Act.

When you stop and think about the investment taxpayers have in each and every child going through our public school systems it seems to be less than intelligent to start throwing away these perfectly good and well educated kids. Plus doing so is just plain cruel. Most often these kids don't know anyone in the homeland of their ancestors, don't speak the language, and are put at risk by being strangers in a strange land.

Senator Durbin's DREAM Act has several related bills. They are H.R.1751, H.R.6327, S.729, S.3962, S.3963.

The bill relating to Haitian orphans appears to be in the drafting phase over in the Senate. I suspect it will look a lot like H.R. 4603, the Haitian Orphan Placement Effort Act, or HOPE Act. which was introduced by Republican Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, along with 21 cosponsors. H.R. 4603 was introduced in February and has been languishing in the House Judiciary Committee.

The HOPE Act, according to the CRS, will expand the humanitarian parole policy for certain Haitian orphans announced on January 18, 2010, so as to apply it on a case-by-case basis to children who were legally confirmed as orphans eligible for intercountry adoption by the government of Haiti before January 12, 2010.

Those children from earthquake ravaged Haiti who were left parentless will have the chance at a full life as the adopted sons and daughters of American families.

The Pigford/Cobell settlement will probably be either S. 3693 or S.3794. S. 3693 is Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley's bill. According to the CRS this bill appropriates to the Department of Agriculture $1.15 billion to carry out the terms of a Settlement Agreement executed by In re Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation that is approved by a court order that has become final and nonappealable, and that is comprehensive and provides for the final settlement of all remaining Pigford claims (relating to a racial discrimination action against the Department of Agriculture). Provides that the $1.15 billion shall be in addition to the $100 million in funds of the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) made available for the payment of Pigford claims and are available only after such CCC funds have been fully obligated. Provides that if such Settlement Agreement is not executed and approved as provided above, then the sole funding available for Pigford claims shall be the $100 million of CCC funds.

The related bill, S. 3754, was introduced by Wyoming's Republican Senator John Barrasso. This bill settles not only the Pigford litigation, as does Senator Grassley's bill, but also settles the case of Elouise Cobell et al. v. Ken Salazar et al.

According to the CRS the Cobell part of Barrasso's bill will Establishes the Trust Land Consolidation Fund, and provides for the deposit of $2 billion in the Fund, on final approval of the Settlement, with funds being made available to the Secretary of the Interior: (1) to conduct the Land Consolidation Program (a program under which the Secretary may purchase fractional interests in trust or restricted land); and (2) for other costs of the Settlement.

Establishes, on final approval of the Settlement, the Indian Education Scholarship Holding Fund to provide scholarships for Native Americans through an Indian Education Scholarship Fund.

Excludes amounts received by an individual Indian as a lump sum or a periodic payment pursuant to the Settlement from: (1) gross income and adjusted gross income under the Internal Revenue Code; and (2) being considered for purposes of determining eligibility or level of benefits under any federal or federally assisted program, during the one-year period beginning on the date of receipt.

Provides for the determination of incentive awards, fees, expenses, and costs under the Settlement. Elouise Cobell et al. v. Ken Salazar et al was a case in which the United States has been found to have breached its fiduciary duties in respect to monies held in trust for the benefits of certain Indians. This was a class action lawsuit.

If the Senate can pass these measures then Harry Reid is off to a good start in winding up the business of the 111th Congress.

No comments:

Post a Comment