The DREAM Act
The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (a.k.a. DREAM Act) is a piece of proposed federal legislation that, if passed, would provide certain undocumented immigrant students who graduate from U.S. high schools the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency. In order to be eligible, the students would:
Dream Act photo by dreamactivist
1) have arrived in the United States as children (under the age of 16) and have been in the country continuously for at least five years.
2) have good moral character as defined by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
3) have graduated from a U.S. high school or received their G.E.D.
4) be between the ages of 12 and 35 when the Law is enacted.
Conditional permanent residency would consist of a six-year period where students would attend college and earn a two-year degree or serve in the military for two years. This would then qualify them to earn citizenship. Under the Act these individuals would be entitled to apply for student loans and work study, but would not be eligible for Pell educational grants. If the service or educational requirements are not met, or the student has committed any crime (excluding non-drug related misdemeanors), temporary residency would be taken away and the student would be subject to deportation.
Children Without Options Become Adults Without Options
According to the DREAM Act web site, approximately 2.8 million students will graduate from high school this year, however about 65,000 graduating students will not be given the opportunity to seek higher education due to their inherited title as undocumented immigrants. While illegal immigration is a hotly debated issue, I believe the DREAM Act can only benefit this country. When children are brought into the United States illegally, they have no choice but to follow the will of their parents. Putting children through our educational system as minors and throwing them into our society as illegal adults without the ability (in many states) to attend college, get a driver’s license, or apply for a job, leaves us with thousands of undereducated, unemployed young people in towns and cities across the U.S. This desperate situation can only stimulate crime and lead to failure, both for the individual and for our country. Shouldn’t we allow these young people, who have demonstrated good moral character, to earn citizenship and contribute to the country they have been living in for a significant portion of their young lives?
Productive Members of American Society
Variations of the DREAM Act have been presented to Congress since 2001. In April 2009, the College Board came out in support of the DREAM Act. In a press release the College Board stated, “As the U.S. seeks to fill the need for a college-educated workforce, it should not turn its back on youngsters who can strengthen our country’s economic and social well-being.” Some people see this as unfair, special consideration to people who are living here illegally, even as a reward for their illegal behavior. I think we need to remember that these individuals are here because they were brought here as children. If they meet the qualifications, we should encourage them to become active members of society — educated and working.
Of course there is a segment of our population who believe “go home!” is the only answer. Some people believe if you did not come here legally you should not have any rights at all. But I ask you to imagine being brought here as a very young child and never knowing another home. Would you (could you?), at eighteen years old, return to your “country of origin” leaving everything and everyone you know behind to live in a country that is foreign to you? Whether you like it or not, this is their home. As taxpayers of this country who have paid for undocumented children to go through public school and receive high school diplomas, shouldn’t we at least get the return on our investment and utilize them as productive members of society?
Education and Employment Means Success for All!
Given this opportunity, I believe most students, having lived under the “undocumented” label for five or more years in the United States, will not take educational and employment opportunities for granted, but will become proud, hard-working, legal citizens. They will begin a cycle of success that will benefit us all.