In the audience of the hearing Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary's Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security was journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who created a furor last week with a first-person account of working for major news outlets as an illegal immigrant, Politico reported.
"I'm empowered more than anything else," Vargas told Politico after the hearing. "It's humbling."
The bill would make it possible for people brought illegally into the United States as children to apply for citizenship after spending several years in the country and completing two years of college or military service. Attempts to pass it earlier this year failed.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano made their case for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, Politico said. Duncan cited a Congressional Budget office report saying the law would generate an extra $1.4 billion in government revenue.
"They have deep roots here and are loyal to our country because in any event, this is the only home they have ever known," Duncan said during the first-ever Senate hearing on the DREAM Act.
Addressing the question of national security, Napolitano said: "These people do not pose a risk to public safety. They do not pose a risk to national security."
Republicans criticized the legislation, with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, arguing the DREAM Act was a Band-Aid fix for the larger issues surrounding a broken immigration system. Cornyn also complained the immigration issue was being "wielded as a political weapon."
"America is a welcoming nation to immigrants who play by the rules and do it the right way," Cornyn said in opening remarks.