It seems as though new legislation is normally met with controversy, but none more so than the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act is one of the most controversial bills and is designed to touch on the very debated and argued topic of immigration. This issue is so important, because as of 2008 more than 600,000 undocumented youth have earned American High School diplomas or GEDs. However, once they complete their education they still have a difficult time obtaining employment due to their illegal status. This has led to a U.S. immigration debate that centers on the topic of children that are brought to the United States illegally by their parent’s choice alone. This brings up the question if illegal immigrants growing up and moving through the United States educational system should be punished due to their illegal immigrant status.
This issue was first addresses by the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act introduced in 2001 by senators Durbin and Hatch. This bill aims to make the educational achievements of immigrant youth the priority. Giving illegal immigrant children the ability to pursue their education and find employment is the goal of this bill. This legislation would make it possible for immigrant youth to move toward U.S. residency through higher education or participation in the military. This will give immigrant youth alternative options for gaining legal permanent status.
What is the Debate?
This might seem like a great idea, but there is a lot of debate and disagreement on the topic of illegal immigrants in the U.S. This was clearly noticed when the DREAM Act failed to pass in 2001. It has made its way to Congress a total of 5 times and failed each instance. However, this program was finally initiated by President Obama in 2012. Many politicians are still not keen on the DREAM Act and the way in which it works to help illegal immigrants obtain residency.
Who is Eligible?
Understanding how the DREAM Act works involves taking a closer look at those that are eligible for citizenship based on this bill. The fact is that not just any alien living in the United States has the ability to rake advantage of the benefits offered by the DREAM Act. There are certain qualifications that you must meet in order to gain citizen ship through college or military enrollment. The qualifications for the DREAM Act include being 35 or younger, living in the United States before the age of 16, living in the United States for at least 5 years, having a High School diploma and evidence of good moral character.
After the qualifications have been met, those in the DREAM Act program would then be given conditional residency. This conditional residency is contingent on meeting all final requirements before permanent residency is granted. This mean either completion of college education or military service within the six-year period of time when conditional residency is obtained.
If you take education and military service out of the equation, it is easy to see where the debate stems from. Immigration is one of the most polarizing topics in the political realm of the U.S. Allowing those under the age of 35 to have the ability to gain American citizenship has been interpreted as an amnesty for many U.S. immigrants. This has led the DREAM Act to be met with a lot of debate. The Obama administration has continued to try and temper debate by continuously outlining the many requirements that DREAMers are expected to meet before permanent residency is obtained. This mean that it should not be viewed as an amnesty. Addressing the issue of undocumented youth in the United States is the ultimate goal of the DREAM Act.
Once you fully understand what the dream act actually is, you can take a closer look at the pros and cons surrounding this issue.
Pros of the DREAM Act:
1. Boost Economy
Since the DREAM Act would allow millions of immigrants to gain U.S. residency, it would also help to boost the economy as a result. With millions of people gaining employment it will lead to more taxable income. This is a huge benefit that many backers of the DREAM Act focus on.
2. Increase Military Enlistment
Right now there is a crisis with the number of U.S. citizens willing to enlist in the military. This problem can be somewhat addressed with the DREAM Act. Not only do illegal immigrants have the ability to gain residency through education, but also through military enrollment. Serving 2 years in the military allows illegal immigrants to fulfill their obligations and gain legal residency. This will help to add to the number of military enrollments and help to address the current crisis.
3. Improve Prospects of Immigrants
The reality of the situation is that there are many illegal immigrants currently living in the U.S. that are young and only have memories of living in this country. These undocumented children have even gone through the U.S. educational system, but do not have good job or educational prospects due to their immigrant status. The DREAM Act allows illegal immigrants under a certain age to improve their future and become educated at a much higher rate than they currently are. Giving children some type of hope is the main goal of the DREAM Act. Many of these children were brought to the U.S. by their parents with no choice. This mean that they should not have to suffer as a result of their parent’s actions.
Even though there are many pros associated with the DREAM Act, there are also a number of cons.
Cons of the Dream Act:
1. Amnesty Clause
Simply applying for the DREAM Act allows illegal immigrants to obtain conditional residency until their application has been processed in full. This results in the inability for the illegal immigrant to be deported for any reasons. Many people opposed to the DREAM Act are mainly against the amnesty aspect.
2. Rewarding Illegal Immigrants
Some of the U.S. population feel that the DREAM Act is simply a way to reward illegal immigrants that have unlawfully snuck their children into the United States. They see it as a shortcut to gaining residency and feel that it is not fair.
3. Assimilation Not a Part of Dream Act
Even though illegal immigrants that qualify for the DREAM Act must finish education or join the military, they are not encouraged to assimilate in any other manner. This means that illegal immigrants are not required to learn the language or convert to the American way of life in any way.
4. Unfair College Acceptance
Many U.S. college applicants are against the DREAM Act, because they feel that it allows illegal immigrants to apply for college enrollment without having to meet the same requirements as U.S. born applicants. They see this as an unfair advantage and increases difficulty of being accepted into college as a U.S. born applicant.
5. Encourage Illegal Migration
Another negative aspect of the DREAM Act is that it will somewhat encourage illegal immigrants to come to the country and bring their children knowing that one day they can become a U.S. citizen.
The debate involving the DREAM Act may never come to an end.