In the last
days of a Democrat-controlled Congress, passage of the DREAM Act still glimmers
as a possibility, offering a pathway to legal immigration status for hundreds
of thousands of undocumented children and young adults who have known the United States
as their only home. The beneficiaries of the DREAM Act were often brought to
the United States
as infants or very young children, and identify as culturally American. The act
would limit the age of beneficiaries to 29, with naturalization a possibility
in fourteen years, and sponsorship of parents or siblings possible in fifteen
years. Without its passage, the individuals will continue to exist in the
shadows of our society, unable to participate freely in our society and
for Immigration Studies (CIS), in its report Estimating the Impact of the DREAM Act, found that "institutions of
higher education overwhelmingly support the DREAM Act, which would likely increase school revenues as students who would not normally
attend college start to pay tuition." Undocumented students attend school by
the thousands in our country, often unaware of their status until they apply
and learn that they cannot qualify for any federal financial aid or
scholarships. They study in limbo, unsure of their prospects after graduation
because they can't work legally, even if they earn perfect grades. Under the
act, they could work legally to earn money to offset the soaring costs of
higher education. If they were to marry a U.S. citizen, the citizen spouse
cannot legalize the status of a person who has been undocumented since infancy.
Many undocumented immigrants have lived here since they were infants, and have
parents who were granted amnesty under IRCA in 1986; their siblings were born
here, and are citizens. Yet our immigration system is a
maze of dead ends and impossibilities, even for those who have no criminal
record, earn a college degree, speak perfect English, and know no other home
outside the United States.
politically unwise to punish the innocent of young and future generations, thereby
creating a permanent underclass of invisible people who have contributed to our
economy and taxes. Ensuring that each member of our society has a lawful status
is a safety and security issue. One need only look to France and Germany to see
the consequences of political isolation - North Africans in France, and Turks
in Germany, have become more politically agitated and frustrated as those
countries' immigration laws have made it impossible for them to belong to the
only home they know.
By the same
token, undocumented students create a second class on campus. They may feel
intimated or marginalized in classes where issues are discussed that directly
impact them. Imagine a class where students debate "illegal immigration." In Oklahoma and Arizona,
which have passed stringent state immigration laws, public institutions cannot
"shelter or transport illegal immigrants." Think for a moment what this
implicates for university housing, or municipal transport. Consider further
that private universities and schools can create their own internal policies to
exclude undocumented students from even applying to their schools, occasionally
citing the political opinions of their donors and alumni. Undocumented students
can attend a public institution, paying full fare, but little else beyond that.
Whether one views education as a market commodity or a civil right, it is clear
that undocumented students' access to education is restricted.
Act is about justice. The undocumented immigrant population in the United States
is not simply a group of people who can be removed from our country. Their
parents, children, and spouses are frequently citizens and permanent residents.
No one benefits when family members of citizens and permanent residents are
threatened with removal or treated as criminals.