I’m a big fan of the DREAM Act, which would allow promising illegal immigrants to get college degrees and then get on the path to citizenship. This country desperately needs more college graduates, and there is little argument that undocumented college graduates would burden our financial resources. Because it is narrowly tailored, it wouldn’t prompt a stampede across our borders, as detractors claim.
And The DREAM Act would free promising students like Jessica Colotl to focus on their studies:
Jessica Colotl, 21, is a senior at Kennesaw State University, a political science major and a member of Lambda Theta Alpha, a college sorority. She wants to attend law school.
However, she came to this country illegally, with her parents, when she was a child. And her detractors don’t care what she’s accomplished since then. They want to send her back to Mexico, a country she barely knows.
But for years, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has been reluctant to endorse the DREAM Act as a separate piece of legislation, fearing that, if it passes, they won’t get the necessary votes for the rest of comprehensive immigration reform. This week, the caucus, happily, changed its mind and will support the DREAM act as a separate bill. (h/t Think Progress)
Today however, at the Reform Immigration for America campaign’s “Relief, Reform, Respect for our Families” forum, CHC Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) announced that the caucus supports Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-NV) addition of the DREAM Act as an amendment to the defense authorization bill, stating “the time is now” for the DREAM Act:
As chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus I stand here before you to say that all along we have said to the Democratic leadership — in the House and in the Senate — and to the President every time we’ve met with him that we will not stand in the way of the DREAM Act, but there has to be a commitment that no amendments will be allowed to be included in this bill. We will support the DREAM Act. [...]
Congress ought to concentrate on a few small bills that would represent a modest improvement over the current reality for millions of those without papers — a life of living in the shadows, without legal protections, with continual fear of deportation and little chance for improved circumstances.
One of the best opportunities lies in the DREAM Act, which would allow promising undocumented students to start a path toward citizenship if they meet certain standards. The proposal — pushed for years by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) — is intended to boost illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, have finished high school and want to attend college or join the U.S. Armed Forces. The bill is a win not only for those students, but also for the country as a whole.
Much of the fury directed at illegal immigrants feeds off the notion that many of them are unfairly taking advantage of benefits that should be restricted to American citizens. However, that’s not the case with college; undocumented students are not displacing bona fide citizens who have been denied a seat in Calculus II.
In fact, the United States doesn’t have nearly enough students attending college. President Obama has talked again and again about the country’s decline in educational attainment: the U.S. used to the lead the world in the number of people with college degrees, but we’ve fallen behind.