The dream lives

AUSTIN, Texas — In 2007 Colorado’s Senator and presidential candidate, Tom Tancredo, stated on his official website: “I am 100 percent opposed to amnesty. As President, I will secure our borders so illegal aliens do not come, and I will eliminate benefits and job prospects so they do not stay.”

The senator’s bold statement and attitude towards illegal immigration are hostile and ignores human rights policy. But as political leaders continue to debate, ten states have decided to enact a bill that would give undocumented immigrants a chance at economic stability in America. California, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Washington have all succeeded in passing the Dream Act.

Senator Tancredo is in opposition to the Dream Act because of beneficial and interests factors in the United States. Opponents of the bill also argue that passing the act before the border is completely secure is to place the U.S. at risk of more illegal immigration and another tax payer’s burden. Supporters of the Dream Act see it though as an entitlement and a must to human rights and argue that the ten states decision to enact the Dream Act is going to help thousands of undocumented immigrants nationwide at climbing up the economic later and achieving a more ideal life style.

Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois introduced the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors [Dream] Act to Congress in 2001. Ever since then, the Senate and the House has rejected the proposal for seven years despite numerous efforts made by supporters to get the bill enacted.

The Dream Act offers certain undocumented children of illegal immigrants the opportunity to apply for permanent legal residency and also allows them to pay in-state tuition to attend college. Those students whose parents brought them into the country illegally at a young age will qualify for the bill. In addition, undocumented immigrant students must attend at least two years of college and work towards obtaining a bachelors degree or serve two years in the armed forces. Students must also have arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16 and living here five years prior to the bill’s passing.

Various versions of the Dream Act were presented to Congress in hope that it will receive reconciliation, but no progress has been made. The bill requires a partisan vote and without support from both parties, this leaves no option for more academic advancement in 65,000 undocumented students graduating from high school every year. Universities do not accept these students due to their legal status, and the students cannot afford to pay the full out-of-state tuition.

The Dream Act seeks to provide a possible resolution for undocumented students who grew up in the country and considers the United States their home but cannot progress further educationally or economically because they are recognized as illegal aliens.

Opponents of the bill argue that the United States will be rewarding lawbreakers and encouraging more illegal immigrants into the country. At the same time, the United States would create a “special class” of illegal immigrants and provide them with benefits to which our own citizens are not entitled. One of the bill’s major weaknesses is that it repeals a 1996 law, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which bars any state from offering discounted tuition to illegal immigrants unless it provides the same tuition discount to all U.S citizens. In other words, the Dream Act grants undocumented students a taxpayer-subsidized education when out-of-state U.S citizens have to pay full price for their education. Opponents contend that providing these special benefits to the undocumented students that are not provided for all law-abiding Americans is unfair and inefficient.

Another weakness of the Dream Act is that it gives amnesty to those who break the law and encourages more aliens to violate immigration laws. The Federation for American Immigration Reform and Homeland Security justify that the bill calls for a “demographic invasion” because citizenship is given away so easily. Opponents claim that the bill does not help in preventing illegal immigrants from traveling into the country nor does it decreases the number of undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. Instead, the Dream Act contributes to more illegal immigration issues.

Kris Kobach, a law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas, states that undocumented students who apply for the Dream Act receives immediate “lawful permanent resident status” and the students in turn can use this acquired status to seek green cards for their parents or relatives in Latin America. Kobach explains that this aids to more illegal immigration, because the parents are now given amnesty and the students get an opportunity to bring more immigrants into the Unite States.

Supporters of the bill argue that passing the Dream Act would be a tremendous asset to the U.S. because the number of skilled and educated workers in the immigrant population would increase. The Dream Act would be giving hundreds of thousands of high-achieving students an opportunity at obtaining greater education and a path beyond dead-end jobs. The bill helps undocumented students obtain degrees and become productive citizens. All these factors possibly reduces the number of dropouts in the Hispanic community and decreases crime rates as well.

George R. Boggs, president and chief executive of the American Association of Community Colleges, argues that the Dream Act will affect our nation’s economic competitiveness. Boggs says that with over 70 million baby boomers starting to retire, the Dream Act will meet the economy’s demand for more college-educated employees. Also, for the undocumented students who decide to serve two years in the armed forces, this gives the military a boost with a line of recruits. The Dream Act provides the large number of Americanized illegal immigrants in the country an opportunity to obtain higher education and move up the economic ladder regardless of their legal status.

Illegal immigration has always been a controversial topic in the United States despite America being one of the countries that are most welcoming to immigrants. For the moment, Congress is reluctant to pass any bill that offers a path to citizenship for illegal aliens. Both the Senate and the House are at a stalemate in passing the Dream Act. Prior to the 2008 election, Senator Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton voted in favor of the bill. Senator John McCain also favored the Dream Act but invoked his decision after it was defeated twice. He announced that he realized Americans want their borders secured first. Republicans also argue that no immigration laws should pass until the federal government seals the border.  For the moment, no action for the Dream Act is currently scheduled in the White House. With the stalemate in Congress, the focus is shifted to state legislatures for decision making.

The United State’s policy on the Dream Act impacts Latin American Nations negatively. Prohibiting undocumented students from obtaining the higher education necessary to economic success, this forces the immigrant populace to work for low paying jobs. The undocumented immigrants do not make enough money for themselves, so they cannot send money back to Latin America to support their relatives. Not only do the lives of the Latin American people will not improve, but Congress is also going to pass a bill that increases the number of available visas for high-skilled science and technology workers in Latin America—thus, extracting the talent, contribution, and wealth out of the country.

U.S policy on the Dream Act keeps illegal immigration off the agenda and contributes zero American funds in aiding undocumented immigrants. Meanwhile, the U.S continues to benefit in tax dollars from the illegal immigrants by not granting them legal residency status. In the end, all this means is that the policy is currently serving in the interest of the United States.

One of the main factors I think why Congress has not passed the Dream Act yet is due to the concern that America’s interests will be affected. While I understand the stake of the controversy, I believe that Congress basing its decision solely on interest’s values—this goes against moral and ethical values. The United State cannot just completely ignore these students and prohibit them from acquiring higher education and a better chance at life. Congress cannot use interest factors to make their decision. It is against human rights and contradicts the American dream.

I think political and diplomatic standards should be the main guidelines used in the decision process instead. One thing I would recommend the U.S does so that both sides win is that instead of passing the entire Dream Act, Congress can make adjustments and approve parts of it and leave out some. Make the bill so that students get the opportunity to attend college affordably. While American students do not get the benefit of paying in state tuition as the undocumented student does, American students always have the option of attending a university in their state and qualify for in-state-tuition. For undocumented students, if the Dream Act is not passed, anywhere they go they will not be eligible for anything. So the question of fairness and what’s right and wrong really falls on the undocumented students instead. I think Congress should reconsider the Dream Act and based its decision not just on interests and economic factors but also diplomatic and ethical concerns.


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