The Dream Act

by Abriana Fernandez

Making The Dream Act law simply makes sense.

The Dream Act was first introduced by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah (who now opposes the measure) with the idea to provide people the opportunity, if under the age of sixteen when entering the United States, to become legal citizens. Those who have a GED or a high school degree, have lived in the United States for at least five years, and are younger than thirty five would be eligible for conditional legal status for six years. Within that six year period they would have had to graduate from two years of college or have served two years in the military and then they would be qualified for U.S. citizenship.

Access to education is a fundamental American value. United States law guarantees access to primary and secondary education to all children regardless of immigration status. Immigration is inevitable and furthermore, a fundamental American experience. Many families, legally and illegally, come to America daily to escape hardships and to find the opportunity for a better lifestyle. Approximately 65,000 students graduate each year from a United States high school; however, they are unable to progress in their education due to inherited title of being an immigrant (NILC). Among these students prohibited from working legally or fulfilling their education to the fullest are valedictorians, honors students, award winners, homecoming queens/kings, class presidents, and other student leaders who have proven their place in American society as, in essence, contributing citizens (NILC). The act provides college bound students to thrive despite their inherited title of being an immigrant. The legalization of the Dream Act serves as a continuous motivational factor for these students. They’re contributing Americans regardless of any legality. Students who have fully put forth their best effort in pursuing an education – as many immigrants do – could benefit America from their success.

In addition to the overall morality of The Dream Act, it also decreases the number of drop out rates of immigrant students. Foreign-born students already represent a significant and growing percentage of the current student population (America’s Voice). Children of illegal parents are more likely to drop out of high school than those who are legal (NICL). The Dream Act provides incentive and motivation for these eligible students to graduate. The Dream Act removes barriers to obtain a higher education for undocumented children who do graduate from high school. In essence, The Dream Act keeps talented students in the United States. Dismissing the overall talent that the Dream Act students obtain “imposes economic and emotional costs on undocumented students and on the U.S. as a whole” (Immigration Policy). These students, without the Dream Act or the opportunity to further invest in their education, are being robbed of their education by the United States as if the United States had no need to have a better education system. Immigrant students are only trying to get a better education and if successful, there doesn’t appear to be any downside to the United States. There is no reason for the United States to discharge of these students who can only be of benefit to the United States.

A side of The Dream Act that is often debated is the legal workforce the measure offers. In Steven Malagna’s 2006 article, “How Unskilled Immigrants Hurt Our Economy,” he claims that “America does not have a vast labor shortage that requires waves of low-wage immigrants to alleviate,” and goes on to add how the availability of cheap and low-waged workers has concluded to “businesses suspend[ing] investment in new technologies that would make them less labor-intensive.” However, a more recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco points out that “immigrants expand the U.S. economy’s productive capacity, stimulate investment, and promote specialization that in the long run boosts productivity” (Immigration Policy). Moreover, these effects do not “take place at the expense of jobs for workers born in the United States” (Immigration Policy). The argument that the United States does not need these workers simply does not make sense in this case. In conclusion, it would be invalid for any employer to deny especially a low wage worker.

If Americans like Malanga are, in fact, so concerned with immigrant workers harming the economy, then why spend even more money on trying to deport the immigrants for them to only return? It is an estimated 41-94 billion dollars to locate, detain, and deport all of the some 12 million immigrants (Fears and Nizza). Rather than spending tax payers’ money to deport immigrants, it makes more sense to figure out a way to keep them in the country, legally, and still keep their hard earned money in the economy. A major contributing factor, of course, is the Dream Act, creating not only hard working citizens, but incredibly smart American citizens.

The Dream Act’s legalization then takes a dip into the idea of America’s melting pot idea. Because the Dream Act targets immigrants and their citizenship into the United States, the legislation then leads to an overall mixing in America. Legalization of this act proves as a factor that America is willing to start stirring the mixing pot rather than look at it as a negative characteristic of America. It is evident in American society that these “minorities… have acted as a powerful force in the creation of America’s self image,” further depicting immigrants’ influence upon America (Rodriguez). In short, the Dream Act allows for American’s overall acceptance of immigrants being here and, furthermore, acceptance and appreciation of their journey and progression to becoming legal citizens.

The Dream Act has proven to not only benefit their participants, but America has a whole. The legislation, if made law, allows for American culture to thrive in richness of an education system, workforce, and overall diverse culture. Despite claims of being a burden on the United States, the Dream Act has provided America with a better economy and society.