Sunday, September 19, 2010

The American DREAM

Reaching a consensus when immigration policy is the conflict, is never easy. Many politicians have struggled to create an effective and smart immigration policy. In the early years of America, immigration laws were fairly simple. The only people denied entry into America were criminals and prostitutes. This didn’t last long. Now entry into America is either a complex bureaucratic process or a dangerous sojourn through Mother Nature’s fiercest elements.

Today’s immigration arguments are mostly concerned with the illegal immigration that occurs at the southern border. Since 2007, three-hundred thousand undocumented immigrants enter the United States yearly. The current undocumented populations is estimated around 11 million. Of the 11 million undocumented immigrants, around 65,000 will graduate from high school this school year. Many of these youths were brought to the United States at a young age. They had no choice as to where they would grow up or where they would receive their education. A good amount of these children are hardworking students who are competitive enough to enter the country’s most competitive universities. But their legal status hinders them from pursuing higher education.

Two senators, one Democrat and one Republic, have created the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or the DREAM Act, to fix this unfair situation. The proposed legislation allows for students who have arrived in the United States before the age of 16, lived in America for five consecutive years, have completed high school, and have “good moral character” ( to obtain a six-year term of conditional permanent legal status. During these six years, one is expected to work toward earning a degree or serve two years in the US military. During this time and under this status, an immigrant would be eligible for federal grants. This would provide the finances needed to attend a higher education institution. This piece of legislation aims to assist undocumented youths that aspire to better their lives with higher education or military enlistment. Once the six years are up, and the requirements are met, the person can apply for citizenship.

This piece of legislation has struggled on Capitol Hill for years. Many are opposed to the DREAM Act. Some see it as a step toward amnesty for all undocumented immigrants. Others see the DREAM Act as a reward for illegal behavior. Some are unhappy that illegal immigrants will receive a tax-funded education. And others assume that it will encourage youth immigration to the US. This isn’t so. A person who will apply must be 12 – 35 years of age during the passage of the law. And those who support immigration reform see it as a cleverly disguise draft of immigrants. Those opposed are missing the most important element. Those who would be affected by the DREAM Act are American youths who will apply for status in hopes of becoming a college-educated, working, contributing American citizen. This legislation is not about securing or closing our borders. This legislation is about providing a minor with their right to education. This legislation is about investing in America's future.

This week, the US Senate will vote on the Defense Appropriations Bill. In a sneaky move, Senator Henry Reid has added the DREAM Act as an amendment to the defense bill. Because the defense bill is unlikely to meet a plethora of nays, there is a good chance that the DREAM Act will receive the sixty votes needed to pass. If this occurs, America will take a small step towards fixing a multifarious immigration problem. And most importantly many undocumented immigrants who have spent most of their childhood in the US will have a better chance at achieve the American DREAM.

For more information on the DREAM Act:

1 comment:

Bill said...

If I recall correctly, the Republicans threatened filibuster on a defense appropriations bill December to delay passage of health care reform. And, it looks like they've done it here too.