Congress is preparing to vote on the DREAM Act in the coming days, so we thought it would be good to lay out what it means for our nation. The DREAM Act is common-sense legislation drafted by both Republicans and Democrats that would give students who grew up in the United States a chance to contribute to our country’s well-being by serving in the U.S. armed forces or pursuing a higher education. It’s good for our economy, our security, and our nation. That’s why the DREAM Act has long enjoyed bipartisan support. It’s limited, targeted legislation that will allow only the best and brightest young people to earn their legal status after a rigorous and lengthy process, and applies to those brought to the United States as minors through no fault of their own by their parents, and who know no other home.
THE DREAM ACT: GOOD FOR OUR ECONOMY, GOOD FOR OUR SECURITY, GOOD FOR OUR NATION
The DREAM Act is common-sense legislation drafted by both Republicans and Democrats that would give students who grew up in the United States a chance to contribute to our country’s well-being by serving in the U.S. armed forces or pursuing a higher education. It’s good for our economy, our security, and our nation. That’s why the DREAM Act has long enjoyed bipartisan support. It’s limited, targeted legislation that will allow only the best and brightest young people to earn their legal status after a rigorous and lengthy process, and applies to those brought to the United States as minors through no fault of their own by their parents, and who know no other home.
Our country will reap enormous benefits when the DREAM Act is finally enacted:
- The DREAM Act will contribute to our military’s recruitment efforts and readiness.Secretary of Defense Gates has written to DREAM Act sponsors citing the rich precedent of non-citizens serving in the U.S. military and stating that “the DREAM Act represents an opportunity to expand [the recruiting] pool, to the advantage of military recruiting and readiness.” The DREAM Act is also a part of the Department of Defense's 2010-2012 Strategic Planto assist the military in its recruiting efforts.
- The DREAM Act will make our country more competitive in the global economy. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has stated that passing the DREAM Act will allow “these young people to live up to their fullest potential and contribute to the economic growth of our country.” In particular, the DREAM Act will play an important part in the nation’s efforts to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020,” something vital for America to remain competitive in today’s global economy.
- The DREAM Act will have important economic benefits. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the DREAM Act in its current form will cut the deficit by $1.4 billion and increase government revenues by $2.3 billion over the next 10 years. According to a recent UCLA study, students that would be impacted by the DREAM Act could add between $1.4 to $3.6 trillion in taxable income to our economy over the course of careers, depending on how many ultimately gain legal status. This income is substantially higher than the income they would earn if they were unable to attend and complete a college education. In fact, research indicates that the average college graduate earned nearly 60 percent more than a high-school graduate. We have much to gain from doing right by these young people.
- The DREAM Act will allow our immigration and border security experts to focus on those who pose a serious threat to our nation’s security. Secretary Napolitano believes this targeted legislation provides a firm but fair way to deal with innocent children brought to the U.S. at a young age so that the Department of Homeland Security can dedicate their enforcement resources to detaining and deporting criminals and those who pose a threat to our country.
Myths vs. Facts: DREAM Act
As the public debate on the DREAM Act moves forward, it is vital that the facts on this important legislation remain clear. The Dream Act is good for our economy, our security, and our nation. And the lenghty and rigorous process the DREAM Act establishes will ensure that our nation is enriched with only the most promising young people who have already grown up in America. In fact, according to a recent analysis by the Migration Policy Institute, just 38 percent of all potential beneficiaries will successfully complete the DREAM Act’s rigorous process and earn permanent immigration status.
Myth: Opponents claim the DREAM Act is “amnesty.”
Fact: The Dream Act requires responsibility and accountability of young people who apply to adjust their status under the DREAM Act, creating a lenghty and rigorous process.
- Young people must meet several requirements in order to qualify for the conditional status it will provide them. These requirements include entering the country when they were under 16 years old, proving they have continuously lived in the U.S. for at least 5 years and graduated from a U.S. high school or obtained a GED; demonstrating their good moral character; proving they have not committed any crimes that would make them inadmissible to the country. Only then can they obtain a conditional status for a limited period of time.
- After their six year conditional status, these same individuals will need to meet additional requirements to move on to the next phase of this process. Specifically, they must have attended college or served in the U.S. military for at least 2 years, and once again, pass criminal background checks, and demonstrate good moral character. If young people are unable to fulfillthese requirements, they will lose their legal status and be subject to deportation.
- Only applies to individuals who entered the U.S. as children. According to DREAM Act’s provisions, beneficiaries must have entered the United States when they were under 16 years old.
- DREAM Act applicants will be responsible for paying fees to cover the costs of USCIS processing their applications.According to Section 286(m) of Immigration and Nationality Act provisions, the cost of having U.S. Customs and Immigration Services process DREAM Act applications will be covered by the application fees.
- DREAM Act applicants would be subject to rigorous criminal background checks and reviews. All criminal grounds of inadmissibility and removability that apply to other aliens seeking lawful permanent resident status would apply and bar criminal aliens from gaining conditional or unconditional LPR status under the DREAM Act. Additionally, decisions to grant status are discretionary, and any alien with a criminal record not automatically barred by these provisions would only be granted status when and if the Secretary exercises her discretion favorably.
Myth: Opponents claim the DREAM Act would encourage more students to immigrate illegally, and that applicants would just use it to petition for relatives.
Fact: The DREAM Act only applies to young people already in the United States who were brought here as children, it would not apply to anyone arriving later, so it cannot act as a “magnet” encouraging others to come. Furthermore,. DREAM Act applicants would not be able to petition for any family member until fulfilling lengthy and rigorous requirements outlined above, and even then, they would have to wait years before being able to successfully petition for parents or siblings..
- DREAM Act beneficiaries would only be able to petition for entry of their parents or sibling if they have satisfied all of the requirements under the DREAM Act. Even then, they would be subject to the same annual caps waiting periods in order to petition for their relatives; the bottom line is that it would take many years before parents or siblings who previously entered the country illegally could obtain a green card.
Myth: Opponents claim the DREAM Act would result in taxpayers having to subsidize student loans for those students who register through the DREAM Act.
Fact: DREAM Act students would not be eligible for federal grants, period.
- An alien who adjusts to lawful permanent resident status under DREAM qualifies only for certain specified types of Federal higher education assistance. Undocumented youth adjusting to lawful permanent resident status are only eligible for federal student loans which must be paid back, and federal work-study programs, where they must work for any benefit they receive. They would not eligible for federal grants, such as Pell Grants.
What They’re Saying:
Editorials and experts around the country are agreeing that the DREAM Act is good for our nation, and have called on Congress to pass it:
Former Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, a Republican, said on a conference callon November 29th it would be a “shame” not to pass the bill in the lame duck.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, said“[The Republican Party] needs to take a hard look at some of the positions they’ve been taking. We can’t be anti-immigration, for example. Immigrants are fueling this country. Without immigrants America would be like Europe or Japan with an aging population and no young people to come in and take care of it. We have to educate our immigrants. The DREAM Act is one way we can do this.”
Former Illinois Republican Governor Jim Edgarvoiced his support for DREAM in an op-ed in Sunday’s Chicago Tribune, writing: “A rational approach to comprehensive immigration reform should begin with the young people who were brought here as babies, toddlers and adolescents…A nation as kind as ours should not turn its back on them. Congress nee
ds to support the sensible, humane approach embodied in legislation known as the Dream Act. The measure charts a rigorous path that undocumented youths must negotiate to gain legal status and qualify for citizenship, and supporting it would be both good government and good politics."
The Wall Street Journal publishedan editorial that argues: “Restrictionists dismiss the Dream Act as an amnesty that rewards people who entered the country illegally. But the bill targets individuals brought here by their parents as children. What is to be gained by holding otherwise law-abiding young people, who had no say in coming to this country, responsible for the illegal actions of others? The Dream Act also makes legal status contingent on school achievement and military service, the type of behavior that ought to be encouraged and rewarded.”
On August 11, 2010, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabeeexplained to NPR the economic sense of allowing undocumented children to earn their citizenship: "When a kid comes to his country, and he's four years old and he had no choice in it – his parents came illegally. He still, because he is in this state, it's the state's responsibility - in fact, it is the state's legal mandate - to make sure that child is in school. So let's say that kid goes to school. That kid is in our school from kindergarten through the 12th grade. He graduates as valedictorian because he's a smart kid and he works his rear end off and he becomes the valedictorian of the school. The question is: Is he better off going to college and becoming a neurosurgeon or a banker or whatever he might become, and becoming a taxpayer, and in the process having to apply for and achieve citizenship, or should we make him pick tomatoes? I think it's better if he goes to college and becomes a citizen."
Education, military, religious and business leaders support the DREAM Act: The legislation is supported by a wide range of leaders from the education, military, and businessfields, and from religious orders including the United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society; the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; the evangelical movement, the Jewish community; and many others.
David S. C. Chu, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness under George W. Bush, called for action on the DREAM Act to strengthen the military. “If their parents are undocumented or in immigration limbo, most of these young people have no mechanism to obtain legal residency even if they have lived most of their lives here. Yet many of these young people may wish to join the military, and have the attributes needed - education, aptitude, fitness, and moral qualifications.” [CQ Congressional Testimony; ”Immigration and the Military”; July 10, 2006]
Margaret Stock, a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve (retired); a former professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point; and an adjunct professor at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, said: “Potential DREAM Act beneficiaries are also likely to be a military recruiter’s dream candidates for enlistment … In a time when qualified recruits—particularly ones with foreign language skills and foreign cultural awareness – are in short supply, enforcing deportation laws against these young people makes no sense. Americans who care about our national security should encourage Congress to pass the DREAM Act.” [Margaret D. Stock, “The DREAM Act: Tapping an Overlooked Pool of Home Grown Talent.” The Federalist Society, Washington, DC. Engage: The Journal of the Federalist Societies Practice Group, Volume 6, Issue 2, October 2005]
Bill Carr, former Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Military Personnel Policy, called DREAM “very appealing” to the military “because it would apply to the ‘cream of the crop’ of students. Mr. Carr concluded that the DREAM Act would be "good for [military] readiness." [Donna Miles, “Officials Hope to Rekindle Interest in Immigration Bill Provision.” American Forces Press Service. June 11, 2007]
Conservative military scholar Max Boot supports the DREAM Act: “It's a substantial pool of people and I think it's crazy we are not tapping into it.” The DREAM Act “would not only offer a welcome path toward citizenship for many promising young people but also might ease some of the recruitment problems that Army has been facing of late.” [Max Boot, “Dream a Little Dream,” Commentary Magazine, September 20, 2007]
The Center for Naval Analyses issued a report finding that immigrants in the military have high levels of performance and lower rates of attrition. The report noted that non-citizens add valuable diversity to the armed forces and perform extremely well, often having significantly lower attrition rates than other recruits. The report also pointed out that “much of the growth in the recruitment‐eligible population will come from immigration.”[CNA, “Non-Citizens in Today’s Military. Final Report.” April 2005. http://www.cna.org/documents/D0011092.A2.pdf]
Senator Richard Durbin Makes a Compelling Case for DREAM: “This is the choice the DREAM Act presents to us. We can allow a generation of immigrant students with great potential and ambitions to contribute more fully to our society and national security, or we can relegate them to a future in the shadows, which would be a loss for all Americans.” [Senator Richard Durbin, Floor Statement, “DREAM Act as an amendment to the Defense authorization bill,” Friday, July 13, 2007