President Obama has allowed the fiscal cliff to take a back seat to immigration reform. While on the campaign trail, the Obama administration promised to pave the way for the Dream Act bill, which would provide conditional permanent residency to certain illegal aliens of good moral character who graduate from U.S. high schools, arrived in the United States as minors, and lived in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill's enactment. If they were to complete two years in the military or two years at a four-year institution of higher learning, they would obtain temporary residency for a six-year period.
"If Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away," Obama said to applause from students at Del Sol High School.
Within the six-year period, they may qualify for permanent residency if they have "acquired a degree from an institution of higher education in the United States or have completed at least 2 years, in good standing, in a program for a bachelor's degree or higher degree in the United States" or have "served in the armed services for at least 2 years and, if discharged, have received an honorable discharge". Military enlistment contracts require an eight-year commitment, with active duty commitments typically between four and six years, but as low as two years.
President Obama recognized that immigration is an issue that inflames "passions," he also asked Americans to consider that they belong to a nation of immigrants.
As of November 2012, 12 states have their own versions of the DREAM Act. These states are Texas, California, Illinois, Utah, Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico, New York, Washington, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Maryland. The Maryland DREAM Act was approved by state-wide ballot, winning 59% of the vote on November 6, 2012.
"It looks like there's a genuine desire to get this done soon, and that's very encouraging," Obama said, mentioning a blueprint put forward by a bipartisan group of eight senators on Monday. "But this time action must follow.
Potential difference between the plans is that the president believes same-sex partners should be able to sponsor their immigrant husband or wife for citizenship in the same way heterosexual married couples can do now. The Senate proposal does not mention same-sex couples. "It's easy sometimes for the discussion to take on a feeling of 'us' versus 'them.'" Obama said.
"When that happens a lot of folks forget that most of us used to be them.... Unless you’re one of the first Americans, a Native American, you came from some place else, somebody brought you."