Framing the DREAM Act: An Analysis of Congressional Speeches

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Initially proposed in 2001, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) continues to be relevant after nearly 20 years of debate. The year 2010 was significant because there seemed to be some possibility of passage. This study investigated the ways in which the DREAM Act discourse was framed that year by supporters and opponents. Selected Congressional speeches of three supporters and three opponents were analyzed using the approach to frame analysis developed by Schön and Rein. Accordingly, attention went to each individual's metacultural frame (i.e., culturally shared beliefs), policy frame (i.e., identification of problem and presentation ... continued below

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Koo, Yilmin May 2018.

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  • Koo, Yilmin

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Initially proposed in 2001, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) continues to be relevant after nearly 20 years of debate. The year 2010 was significant because there seemed to be some possibility of passage. This study investigated the ways in which the DREAM Act discourse was framed that year by supporters and opponents. Selected Congressional speeches of three supporters and three opponents were analyzed using the approach to frame analysis developed by Schön and Rein. Accordingly, attention went to each individual's metacultural frame (i.e., culturally shared beliefs), policy frame (i.e., identification of problem and presentation of possible solution), and rhetorical frame (i.e., means of persuading the audience). Attention also went to the shared framing among supporters and the shared framing among opponents as well as differences in framing across the two groups. Although speakers varied in framing the issue, there were commonalities within groups and contrasts between groups. For supporters, the metacultural frame emphasized equity/equal opportunity, fairness, and rule of law; for opponents, the metacultural frame stressed rule of law, patriotism, and national security. For supporters, the policy frame underscored unfairness as the problem and the DREAM Act as the solution; for opponents, the policy frame emphasized the DREAM Act as the problem and defeating the DREAM Act as the solution. Rhetorical frames also differed, with the supporters making much use of testimonial examples and the opponents making much use of hyperbole. The study illustrates (1) how the same named values and beliefs can have dramatically different interpretations in metacultural framing, as were the case for rule of law and American dream in this discourse; (2) how the crux of an issue and its intractability can be seen by looking at how the problem is posed and how the solution is argued, and (3) how speakers strengthen their claims with particular kinds of rhetorical devices. Through descriptions of political positioning on the DREAM Act, the study contributes to understandings of ongoing issues regarding the lives of undocumented young people who have received and are receiving education in the U.S.

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  • May 2018

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  • June 6, 2018, 1:19 p.m.

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Koo, Yilmin. Framing the DREAM Act: An Analysis of Congressional Speeches, dissertation, May 2018; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1157597/: accessed December 11, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .