Beth Werlin, Deputy Legal Director for the American Immigration Council, discusses the recent...
DREAM Act sparks debate, misinformation, and fear
Published on Wed, Jul 13, 2011
After reading the 200 plus comments last week, I realized that despite my laying out the case for the DREAM Act, that there were many misconceptions as well as real questions out there that deserve answers and clarification.
There were also readers who wrote insightful comments, sometimes even using their own experiences to highlight what the DREAM Act would mean. And I encourage more of you to write in.
A thank you to all who left comments.
I hope to further the dialogue by tackling ten points made by readers who showed real concern or didn’t have all the facts about DREAMers, the young people this bill would affect.
1. Illegal immigrants flooding over our borders are the problem.
Actually the problem is more complicated than that.
Out of the estimated 11 to 12 million undocumented aliens living in America, 40-45% came here on visas from places as diverse as India, Russia, or Ireland and then never returned home. They arrived on tourist, student, business, and temporary worker visas. (Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Committee Report and GAO)
Since 2007, more than 300,000 people each year have remained on our shores after their visas expired. (ICE report to Congress)
By the way, an interesting side fact: six of the 9/11 hijackers had overstayed their visas.
2. DREAMers will take away jobs.
There is no evidence that citizenship for DREAMers would cost jobs for American workers. Instead it has been found that immigrants actually expand and enrich the economy as these young people become productive, tax paying individuals. (Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Report)
America needs as many talented college graduates that it can muster. Right now, we are encouraging people from abroad to come to America to go to college with majors in science and technology.
DREAMers are also desperately needed in the fields of medicine, medical technology, and teaching.
3. DREAMers will bump American students from colleges and act as a magnet for more illegal immigrants to come here.
According to the DREAM Act, DREAMers would pay in-state tuition but would be listed as out-of-state students. Thus no state resident would be bumped from a seat at a state college.
The DREAM Act only applies to young people brought here as children or babies and not anyone coming after the DREAM Act is law. So it is NOT a magnet, encouraging others to come.
4. The DREAM Act would allow illegal immigrants who are criminals to become citizens.
Nope, the DREAM Act very specifically says that criminal activity (including misdemeanors) would bar that individual from being eligible. All DREAM Act applicants would be subjected to a rigorous criminal background check and review.
5. DREAM Act will weaken the military with illegals.
On the contrary, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wrote Congress that non-citizens serving in the military have been a boon to the armed services and has encouraged the passage of the DREAM Act.
He added,“The DREAM Act represents an opportunity to expand [the recruiting] pool to the advantage of military recruiting and readiness.”
6. The DREAM Act is amnesty.
Not so. The DREAM Act insists upon responsibility and accountability for young people before they are even able to embark upon the program.
Then they face a long and exacting process of over six years to complete it before being able to apply for citizenship. (See Ad Lib on July 4th for details of the requirements.)
Nor does it give it amnesty or even a green card to the families of DREAMers. Their parents and siblings must adhere to the same strict standards for citizenship as if their children were not DREAMers.
7. Presidents Hoover, Truman and Eisenhower deported millions upon millions of illegal immigrants to save jobs.
This half-baked rumor has been flying all over the internet. The fact is we have always deported illegals when they are apprehended. Here’s the lowdown on these three presidents:
Hoover – deported or ordered to leave 121,000 people. He never used US immigration policy to create jobs.
Truman – did not create jobs for returning vets by ordering the deportation of illegal immigrants. Instead he signed legislation that protected the rights of migrant, seasonal workers in the US who were recruited to work here.
He sought to crack down on employers who hired illegal workers, but Congress would not agree to hold businesses responsible.
During his eight years as President, 127,000 illegal immigrants were deported and about 3.2 million left on their own under threat of deportation. But they did not leave to help free up jobs.
Eisenhower – rumor has it that over two years he deported 13 million Mexicans under something called, odiously, I might add, “Operation Wetback.”
Actually about 1/10 of that number probably were deported while 2.1 million of all illegal immigrants who returned home repatriated themselves because of the threat. The operation took all of five months, not two years. And it was not to preserve jobs. (Fact Check, Anneburg Public Policy Center on all three presidents)
8. The DREAM Act is just another example of President Obama coddling illegal immigrants.
Far from it. This administration believes that children shouldn’t have to pay for the sins of their parents.
A little girl looks with hope at a DREAM Act banner.
When people are apprehended who came here illegally, they are returned home.
In fact, Obama has been equally tough on deporting people who came here illegally, and according to Jorge Ramos, a news anchor for Univision, the Spanish-language TV station, Obama “deported more people in his first year in office than George W. Bush in his last year in office.”
Since Obama took office, according to Dept. of Homeland Security, until December 2010, more than 1 million illegal immigrants have been deported.
9. Dream Act students will take away federal grants like the Pell Grant that should go to American citizens.
Nope. According to the Immigration Policy Center: “The DREAM Act states that undocumented youth adjusting to lawful permanent resident status are only eligible for federal student loans (which must be paid back), and federal work-study programs, where they must work for any benefit they receive. They are not eligible for federal grants, such as Pell Grants.”
10. We can’t afford the DREAM Act.
Actually we can because it’s cost-effective.
According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, if passed as it’s now written, the DREAM Act would ultimately cut the deficit by $1.4 billion and increase government revenues by $2.3 billion over the next 10 years.
A UCLA study found that DREAMers becoming well-educated and securing high level jobs as the result of their schooling would have a significant impact on our economy over their life times. It’s estimated they could add between $1.4 and $3.6 trillion to the economy.
Sorry I could not answer all of your concerns, but these were the ones I heard time and again.
While the DREAM Act is only a baby step in immigration reform, it is one that will ultimately pay high dividends to our country.
Published in the Washington Times | Read Article