< For DREAMers, it is a chance to finally live the American dream to its fullest >
This has been an interesting topic for me to cover, having grown up in Los Angeles, where being undocumented is both normal and complicated for the families there. My own parents came here illegally years before I was born. It has been something that has greatly affected the way we live and the way we view following the law versus doing what’s right for the family. It has affected my own views on the US’s role in Latin American countries and the way foreigners look at the United States.
The issue surrounding the DREAM Act is both long and controversial. Those who support the DREAM Act say it will help usher in new workers to boost the economy out of its current recession. While those opposed to it say it will indeed further move the government into a greater deficit. Regardless of what stand one takes on it, both those for and against its passing, can agree that something must be done to fix our broken immigration laws that allowed this to affect our economy. With all these legitimate concerns, could it be that passing the DREAM Act actually help boost the economy in the long run? Understanding what the DREAM Act is and why it is needed will then lead Americans understand how it will help the fledgling US economy out of its current situation
The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors bill, if passed, will provide permanent residency to about 2.1 million children and young adults who live in country illegally. It originally came closest to being passed in 2010, but was unable to pass debate threshold in the senate. Now in 2013, having passed in the Senate, the DREAM Act is awaiting to be debated and ruled in the House but has been stalled for months due to partisan division over the greater immigration debate.
Those who will benefit from the bill are children and young adults who came to the United States before the age of 16, and who have lived 5 consecutive years in the United States. the Bill further requires they be of good moral standing, have graduated from high school or equivalent degree, and become enrolled in a minimum two year college. These standards are key to seeing how this bill differs from other pro-immigration bills that most conservatives fear are forms of amnesty.
The requirements for the DREAM Act would provide undocumented students the opportunity to become legal residents if they graduate from high school and complete two years of college or military service. Those in favor say the DREAM Act is a huge investment, a sure way to integrate students who have already been a part of our social economy, and a great incentive for these young people to pursue higher education or military service. DREAMers as they’re called, have known only the U.S. as home. Most speak English fluently and have long ago adopted American culture and style. Depriving them of a college based education not only undermines the American dream, but keeps a whole class of people from further contributing to the economy as a whole.
People like Gaby Pacheco, who has been living undocumented in the United States since she was 7 year. Gaby and her family came to Miami, Florida from Ecuador in 1993. Like any regular American student, she participated in school and extracurricular activities. She was in ROTC with hopes to join the Air Force. But that, along with degrees in special education and public policy do little to help her progress in landing a well-paying job without permanent residency or US citizenship. Her plight is similar to thousands of young prospective students and graduates who want to, but can’t contribute to this country they have called home most of their lives.
Examples like Gaby are what motivate hundreds of organizations nationwide to consider what the economic consequences of passing such a bill would do. Conservative think tanks do their own studies that attempt to disprove the provisions of the DREAM Act. They often hinge on assumptions of how immigrants live and the current economic situations of many undocumented. They do not take into account how education will change wave of low income families usually found in immigrant homes.
Nonpartisan government studies show that passage of the bill may indeed benefit the US economy. One such study by the Congressional Budget Office indicate that the DREAM Act when implemented over a ten year period could cut the deficit by $1.4 billion and increase government revenues by $2.3 billion (Congressional Budget Office, 2013). Most of this money would come from taxable income gathered from a new generation of residents who have a higher income due to higher degrees and higher paying jobs. The findings further state that any contribution from newly legalized citizens over a 10 year period would boost Social Security by $77 million and Medicare outlays by $29 million(Congressional Budget Office, 2013) . This research contradicts conservative minded groups opposed to the bill’s passage.
Opponents of The DREAM Act counter that the proposed bill will further hurt the U.S economy by draining resources from social security, healthcare and education. As legal residents, they would be added to the millions spent on government financial aid to students each year, taking away from American born citizens. They argue that the congressional budget office studies had failed to take into account the costs for education as well as increased levels of unemployment due to the addition of workers to the workforce, and increases in potential applicants. A closer look at the provisions show that DREAM Act students don’t receive any special benefits except those already given to legal immigrants. This means that DREAM Act students and families are not eligible for welfare money, food stamps, or Medicaid (except emergency care) until at least 5 years have passed as a law abiding permanent resident. The DREAM Act states that those students eligible for permanent residency are only eligible for federal student loans, that they are then required to pay back at the end of their schooling. Students under the act are not eligible to receive the Pell grant or other federal grants. Most of these arguments are based on misreading or lack of understanding of the bills provisions.
Others opposed to the DREAM Act contend that providing a means for legal status undermines the laws of the land. The bill is another form of amnesty that encourages and provides means for future immigrants to come and stay undocumented. They assert that it would lead to a spiraling of new residents who would use their legal status to bring over and legalize their family. Health care costs would go up due to increased demand from both DREAMers and their legalized extended families which in the process would lead an already burdened health care system to collapse. They say the bill will lead to abuse by family members of dreamers and many will use it as a way to apply for legal status which would unfairly push back thousands of other legal immigrants who are still in line for their visas. What the DREAM Act won’t do is give amnesty to students. The criteria for being eligible to apply under the bill makes it clear who that only certain undocumented people will benefit from the bill. They must have entered this country before the age of 15 and lived in the United States for five years before the bill is enactment. They must have graduated from high school or have earned admission into a college that minimally provides a 2 year degree. Background checks are implemented to show they are not a security threat and demonstrate good moral character. The students will earn their permanent residence status after a six-year process in a waiting line that puts them behind other immigrants who have applied legally. Application and penalty fines are also implemented in the process. The Act will have its own separate system for those students which is set up to not hold up or push back any current visa waiters.
Immigration opponents say that the influx of students will disadvantage American citizens going to college. They fear that new students will cause unfair competition for citizen students creating a system undermines enrollment and raises tuition costs. The truth is found in recent data collected from states that have already passed laws allowing undocumented students to enroll and participate using instate tuition. All 10 states showed increases in community college enrollment. Increased revenue was another result of having undocumented students who normally do not attend college be eligible to go. The majority of DREAMers will enroll in community colleges, where competition is minimalized because of open enrollment.
Controversy over the DREAM Act will likely not go away anytime soon. Those for the DREAM Act, hope to get enough votes to prepare a path for legal status and a college education. Many hope to get higher paying jobs and contribute to the U.S. economy with those higher wages. Their motivation comes from the same American values that promote hard work and sacrifice for a greater way of living. Those opposed worry that the American culture and economy are under threat by those who broke the law and use American resources to the disadvantage of citizen born. The DREAM act to them possess a threat to the future stability of the country. How the DREAM Act fairs in congress or is implemented requires an in depth study of the many facets of the bill. What is understood, is that Congressional research backs claims that implementation of the DREAM Act will not only help millions of young men and women but the nation’s economy as a whole. Instead of using up government resources, these DREAMers will greatly contribute to the revenue and aid of our future generations. Their acquired skills will lead to higher incomes and make up for any loss in services. The bill is a fair way to help those have a chance at citizenship without taking away opportunities for those who have come here legally. Its provisions will keep visa waiters in line to receive permanent residency. The bill is stepping stone on the right path to greater immigration reform and answering some of the lingering questions about immigration in this country. For DREAMers, it is a chance to finally live the American dream to its fullest. They, who in every aspect of their lives dream as Americans dream, but are denied the basic tools to make those dreams become reality, can provide the way to economic rejuvenation.