Undocumented students in the United States are currently trapped in a legal paradox. They have the right to a primary and secondary education and are generally allowed to go on to college, but their economic and social mobility is severely restricted due to their undocumented status. The DREAM Act, which would provide a path to legal residency for undocumented youth, is one way out of this legal predicament. Besides the moral and humanitarian reasons for opening the door to college for these students, there are also strong economic arguments, such as ensuring that the investment already made in the K-12 education of these students is realized and that the country benefits from the rich potential of productive, educated and U.S.-trained workers.
Numerous studies demonstrate that legal status brings fiscal, economic and labor-market benefits to individual immigrants, to their families and to society in general. Over time, given a chance, young men and women who are now undocumented will improve their education, get better jobs and pay more in taxes. Given their relatively small numbers as compared with public college and university enrollments, they will make up only a tiny fraction of the total population and will not displace other students. Yet their numbers are sufficient to contribute significantly to the growth of the higher-skilled labor force in the years to come. In school we encourage our students to aspire, yet we deny undocumented children the opportunity to share in the American Dream. As we think about the potential contributions of Cory, Steven, César, Rosalba, Shirley and others, we must seriously consider what happens not just to a dream deferred but also to a dream realized.
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Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) released a statement after The College Board's report in support of the DREAM Act:
The College Board’s nonpartisan, independent report sends a very clear message: allowing more people to get more education is in America’s best interests.
Education is the foundation of the 21st century economy. It’s the path to a new prosperity. And it’s a keystone of human dignity.
This report makes it clear that we’re failing to fully harness and develop the talent that our young people have to offer. There are men and women who came to this country when they were very young, who worked hard in high school, who are ready to study or wear the uniform of the United States of America—but who see those doors slam shut in their faces because their parents were undocumented.
These students love the United States, the only home they’ve ever known—so they’ve followed the rules and worked hard in school.
But thousands of young men and women are kept from enrolling at colleges and universities, preventing them from achieving their full potential, ultimately reducing the amount they pay in taxes, reducing the amount they invest in the economy and reducing the probability they’ll become employers and create jobs.
If this country is going to stay on the apex of the curve of innovation and intellect, it’s time to stop holding down our rising stars, time to prepare them to contribute so they can best harness their talents in the service of our economy and our communities.
That’s what the DREAM Act is all about. It allows young people who came to this country as undocumented children, and who meet very specific criteria, to enlist in the military or attend college.
The DREAM Act is about creating the best-educated American workforce possible. These men and women are future doctors, teachers, businesspeople, nurses. They are an economic resource we can’t afford to waste.
But let’s be clear: this isn’t an open door or a free ride. Students have to pay tuition, pay taxes, and follow the law when it comes to applying for citizenship. It’s only for people who came to the U.S. at age 15 or younger, who aren’t criminals or terrorists, and who graduate from high school. They have to prove a lot of responsibility from start to finish.
At the end of the day, the DREAM Act is a straight-ahead test of what America is all about. The fundamental question is, Do we punish children for the sins of their parents?
When their parents came to the U.S., they didn’t have a choice to stay behind and wait for their papers to come through. It’s hard to fill out immigration forms when you’re in a stroller. Punishing children for the sins of their parents is as un-American as it gets.
The barrier separating undocumented children from college and from fully contributing to the economy is one more historical barrier that has to fall. There was a time when we were told educating women was unhealthy. There was a time when we were told educating African Americans was dangerous.
There was a time when limiting the number of students of a certain religion who could enter a university was normal. We’ve put those horrible myths to rest, and it’s hard to think of too many times in history when allowing someone to pursue an education turned out to be a bad idea. It would be a clear demonstration of the true character and goodness of America to allow her future citizens the same chance to develop their talents and pursue their dreams.
It’s in the interest of every American to stay true to our founding ideals, and watch these young people’s dreams become reality.
But I have more exciting news to share,
University of Michigan has passed a resolution in support of the DREAM Act.
Oregon considers in-state tuition bill.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg announces his support fot the DREAM Act.
Keep up with the DREAM Act movement over at DreamACTivist.org