The DREAM Act stands for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act. This bill would provide permanent residency to certain undocumented students who graduate from US high schools, arrived in the US illegally as minors, and have lived in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill's enactment. If they were to complete two years in the military or two years at a four-year institution, the students would obtain temporary residency for a six-year period. This bill would have included undocumented immigrants as old as 35 years of age. A recent UCLA study estimates that between $1.4 trillion and $3.6 trillion in taxable income would be generated for the economy over a forty-year period based upon estimates ranging between 825,000 and 2.1 million potential DREAM Act beneficiaries successfully obtaining legal status through the legislation.
All things considered, the bill sounds like a win-win situation. It would allow illegal minors a chance at the “American Dream” while also stimulating our economy, which is currently starving for new sources of revenue. So why hasn’t it been passed yet and why is the Obama administration “continuing deportation proceedings for DREAM Act-eligible young people despite saying publicly they are not the focus of his administration's immigration enforcement efforts.”
Well, let’s look at the history of the bill. It was first introduced to Congress in 2001, though not under the name DREAM act, and has been presented to the Senate various times as both “The DREAM Act” and “The American Dream Act.” The content of the bill was also placed in other failed immigration related bills. “Senate opponents cited a variety of reasons for their opposition. Some labeled the DREAM Act an amnesty that would encourage chain migration and further illegal immigration in anticipation of new versions of the DREAM Act. Others stated that the DREAM Act, though worthy legislation, should be enacted only as part of a comprehensive immigration reform.”
Too often it seems America’s government officials, and at times the American public at large, forget their history. They forget that we are a country of immigrants both voluntary and involuntary and that at some point in our history we prided ourselves on that. Now, we make comments about immigrants invading our country, stealing our jobs and taking away opportunities away from our American sons and daughters.
We are not talking about illegal immigrants who come here trafficking and distributing drugs. We are not talking about those who perpetuate gang violence. We are talking about people who want to make an honest living. People who want to get a world-class education. People who want to serve in our military. We are talking about people who would ultimately prove to enhance our society.
In May 2011, the DREAM Act was re- introduced. Now, Republican senators are claiming that if the bill included more immigration enforcement, they would consider it more seriously. It is unclear as to where the bill will go from here, but what is clear is that we must continue to stand behind the DREAM Act, petition for those who DREAMers who are in danger of being deported, and keep putting the pressure on our government officials to do what’s right. DREAMers in various states across the country are now petitioning their state governments to make some variation of the DREAM Act a reality in their states.