To Dream or Not to Dream: A DREAM Act Summary
The topic of immigration reform — a hot-button issue lately — nearly always includes some mention of the DREAM Act.
Like many immigration issues, the DREAM Act is hard to understand without a succinct summary — why are people for or against it? What can it accomplish?
The DREAM Act in the News
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced that this week he will be moving a defense authorization bill that also would include a measure to pass the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act.
In summary, the DREAM Act would help undocumented students who have graduated from a US high school. The US government would provide financial aid and a path to citizenship in exchange for completing two years of higher education or two years of military service.
President Obama has pledged his support to the DREAM Act, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has announced its support of Sen. Reid’s bill. But not everyone supports the DREAM Act — and even proponents of the DREAM Act fear there are some flaws.
A Summary of DREAM Act Cons
In summary, the DREAM Act would allow undocumented minors in the US to prove that they entered the United States before the age of 16 and have been in the US for five consecutive years. After a background check (and if the students prove to have “good moral character”) they will be allowed in-state tuition and a shortened path to citizenship after either two years of studying toward a higher degree or two years of military service.
While right-wing opponents say the DREAM Act rewards illegal behavior and encourages further illegal immigration to the United States, opponents of the act from the political left call the act a military recruitment tool. It is true that the Pentagon was involved in drafting some early versions of the DREAM Act, figuring it would be an easier road to citizenship than that of higher education. So is the DREAM Act for the benefit of undocumented children in the US — or for the US military?
A Summary of DREAM Act Pros
Nearly 65,000 undocumented students graduate from US high schools every year. The American school system guarantees that all children can receive an education through the twelfth grade. After that, however, many undocumented students cannot go on to college — they are denied in-state tuition because of their illegal status, though many of the students have lived in the United States for most of their lives.
However, passing the DREAM Act would eliminate a federal provision that penalizes states that provide in-state tuition without regard to immigration status.
The College Board stated that “in strictly economic terms, the contributions that DREAM Act students would make over their lifetimes would dwarf the small additional investment in their education beyond high school, and the intangible benefits of legalizing and educating these students would be significant.”
In summary, passing the DREAM Act would stop the punishment of children who came to the United States illegally, but through no fault of their own. Many came here when they were very young, speak English better than any other language, and really have no other place to call home. While the DREAM Act is not perfect, it is likely to have a positive effect on the tens of thousands of undocumented children in the US.