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immigration by liuqingyan


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Carly Smith

Marlene Kobre



                       The DREAM Act: An American Investment

       All high school graduates in America can tell you about the clichéd speeches

at their graduation of new beginnings and making dreams come true. Most of them

went on to college or the military and obtained jobs. College is less of a dream and

more of a necessity. Unfortunately, not all people in this country get the chance to

chase after their dreams. Undocumented immigrants attend high school, but once

they graduate the government ignores the positive impacts they could make for the

future, especially if the government considers them legal residents. Even though this

path to legalization is unfair to people who entered the country legally, the United

States cannot waste the potential that many undocumented immigrants have.

Congress should reconsider the DREAM act and work programs not only for this

country’s future, but also for the undocumented minors who have been here for the

majority of their lives.

       The United States has always been a country for immigrants. Many

Europeans originally migrated for various reasons, often economic, and two great

waves of immigration followed as a result. Immigrants were not necessarily treated

well when they came to the U.S.—many faced discrimination and some were

deported or barred from entry. By the 1920s, public concern coupled with difficult

economic times drove Congress to limit immigration and create the U.S. Border
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Patrol to block illegal immigrants from Mexico (Greenblatt 107). In the 1950s, the

government strictly enforced immigration laws, but began to send conflicting

messages. While they deported 1 million undocumented Mexican immigrants, they

also relied on the cheap, agricultural Mexican labor in Texas (Greenblatt 109). The

security of the border remains an issue today.

       The government allows fewer people to come into the country legally; fewer

visas are distributed today. Since 2001, the U.S. has “gone from offering 195,000

highly skilled visas to about 65,000” and more than 65 percent of them are “for

purposes of bring family members to the United States (Klein). Even though there

are fewer visas available, the number of immigrants continues to rise. As the

country receives more immigrants, their presence becomes widely recognized.

Undocumented immigrants now settle beyond the traditional “border” states of

Texas, California, Arizona, and New Mexico, forcing to acknowledge the emerging

problem of illegal immigration.

       Several options lay on the table for addressing immigration in the country.

Mass deportation, sending all those who are undocumented to their home countries,

was used once before, but it’s rough and too extreme. The other extreme option is

amnesty, granting a legalized status to all who are illegal. Amnesty overlooks the

hardships legalized immigrants went through to enter the country legally.

In 2008 Arizona issued a new law, requiring all immigrants to carry documentation

and gives the police overreaching power to detain people based on suspicion. This

option is also too extreme and could promote racial profiling. The most reasonable

options consider the country’s economic reliance on immigrants, the future of
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undocumented children, while balancing fairness with practicality. The

Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act creates a path to

citizenship for young undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as a minor

if they go on to receive a college education or join the U.S. military. It was originally

introduced in 2001, but continues to fail to become a law.

       Because the DREAM act gives undocumented minors an education, the

economy will improve. The Immigration Policy Center, an organization whose goal

is to foster a rational conversation on immigration through research and analysis,

stated that “research has shown that the DREAM act would be a boon to the

economy and the U.S. workforce” (“The DREAM Act” 2). Currently, undocumented

students are not eligible for financial aid. Even those who earn scholarships have

few opportunities for school. Karina de La Cruz, an undocumented student attended

University of California, Los Angeles, could earn no financial aid. Though she was

able to raise money through a fundraiser, she still could only pay for half of the

tuition. Few stay in school like Karina; most cannot graduate because they do not

have the money for college (Rumbaut 60-61). If these students did not drop out,

colleges would gain more revenue. Foreign-born students represent a growing

percentage of the student population—from 1.7 to 5.7 percent from 1970 to 1995—

and it is much higher today, continuing to grow. The high dropout rate “costs

taxpayers and the economy billions of dollars each year” (“The Economic Benefits”).

The DREAM act will reduce this dropout rate and save money, but the legislation can

also generate money. Colleges will receive more money from immigrants staying in

school. Once these people graduate as U.S. citizens, they will have higher incomes
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when they go into their careers. They will spend and invest more money, “pay

$5,300 more in taxes and cost $3,900 less in criminal justice and welfare expenses

each year” than if they had not received a post-secondary education. This could

result in hundreds of billions of dollars, greatly improving the economy (“The

Economic Benefits”). With 360,000 undocumented high school graduates eligible for

conditional legal status and another 715,000 still in school (Rumbaut 62), the

potential for a booming economy in the future should not be wasted.

       Some illegal immigrants cross the border with criminals. By legalizing the

immigrants who contribute to society, law enforcement can focus on the real

criminals. At the moment, the law enforcement wastes energy on “sorting out who is

who in the community because illegals present local police with a bewildering maze

of identities” (Thornburgh 5). Crossing the border illegally is a crime, but crossing

the border and then trafficking is a worse crime. Police should focus on traffickers

and terrorists, but in the current system they also have to spend time and effort on

pursuing workers returning to their families. If the DREAM act passes, the real

criminals will be known and law enforcement will spend less money.

       The majority of the U.S. citizens lack empathy for illegal immigrants because

they do not consider the situations of many immigrants from Mexico. Many cross

the borders without weapons, desperately trying to flee the poor economic and

political state of their country. Many of those people either die trying to cross the

border or become indebted to “trafficking rings and might even risk crossing with

illicit drugs destined for U.S. users” (Bender 4). Once they do enter the states,

Americans expect them to assimilate to the culture while keeping them in the
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shadows and therefore unable to seek aid. They are uninsured, cannot get driver’s

licenses, and avoid the police even when they are victims to crimes (Bender 5). They

take jobs that many Americans see as beneath them, such as janitors and gardeners.

Most cannot find jobs other than low-level ones regardless of their skills or

education. It’s unforgivable that our country would subject anyone, regardless of

legal status, to that treatment, but it is even more unforgivable that we would

impose that same viewpoint onto children and young adults who came from another

country because their parents wanted them to have a better future.

       Many undocumented immigrants in high school are motivated and want to

pursue college or the military. Recruiters recognize the talent of those who are

undocumented, but cannot help them. Noheli Carrasco, a senior in high school in

Virginia came to the U.S. from Bolivia when she was 11 years old. She joined Junior

Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC), three years later and now wants to follow

a career in the Air Force because it is “academically and physically demanding.”

She’s more patriotic than most citizens born in the U.S. Top Pentagon officials even

express frustration with the defeat of the DREAM act as Clifford Stanley,

undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness said that in the past and in

the present, “those who are not yet citizens have answered the call to defend their

adopted nation” (Sieff).

       While rewarding the undocumented for pursuing an education and legalized

status, some see the DREAM act as unfair to people who gained citizenship legally.

Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank whose mission

is to promote traditional American values, believes comprehensive immigration
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reform creates “a privileged admission queue reserved for former illegal immigrants

alone…without ever competing with others who seek to enter and live in the U.S.

lawfully” (Rector). However, legislation such as the DREAM act is not amnesty—it

does not grant legalization to all undocumented immigrants. Rather, minors must

earn their citizenship through school or the military. Doing either shows that they

are invested in the country—just as we should be invested in the future.

       The investment that those going into college make is not cheap. Taxpayers

worry that they will be the ones paying for undocumented students’ college, but

undocumented immigrants also pay taxes. A 1994 Urban Institute found that

“immigrants generate significantly more in taxes paid than they cost in services

received” (Cole 696). The San Diego ACLU concluded that the undocumented

“annually pay an estimated $7 billion more than they take out into Social Security,

and $1.5 billion more into Medicare” (Ehrenreich). Undocumented minors need

financial aid in order to stay in college, but their parents and guardians pay taxes

like citizens of the country.

       Others may fear that immigrants steal jobs, which could only become more

prevalent when they have served in the military or received a college education.

Immigrants actually create more jobs than they take. Immigrants own more than

40,000 companies in New York and provide thousands of jobs as well as $3.5 billion

to the state’s economy ever year (Cole 696). They create jobs because “with more

labor—particularly more labor of different kinds—the economy grows larger…there

are more workers buying things and that increases the total number of jobs” (Klein).
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       Jena Baker McNeill, policy analyst who also writes for the Heritage

Foundation, believes the DREAM act is simply another form of amnesty and will

encourage more illegal immigration because it sends “the message that the U.S. does

not take its immigration laws seriously” (McNeill). McNeill’s assumption is

incorrect; the DREAM act is narrowly tailored to address one defined group. It

addresses minors who go on to college or the military and they also have to wait ten

years prior to obtaining lawful permanent status (“Busting the DREAM Act Myths”).

The DREAM act creates many opportunities for undocumented minors, but it is also

designed solely for them to create opportunities.

       The DREAM act is the most effective at strengthening the country while

addressing the problem of legalization. Neither mass deportation nor amnesty seeks

to bolster the economy because they are expensive policies. Arizona’s law on

immigration also puts a strain on law enforcement, draining resources and wasting

money. The country cannot lock away this problem. By detaining anyone who does

not have proper identification, the United States has nothing to gain—the only one

who does is the private prison industry. The majority of Arizona legislators received

donations from prison company lobbyists (Sullivan). Their plan was a business

model that feeds on the exploited undocumented immigrant. If Arizona legislators

had refused to play in to the companies’ hands, they could, instead, work toward

creating jobs with the same immigrants they want to misuse.

       For too long this country has expected the undocumented to take low-level

jobs while living in fear of deportation. Because we are resistant to change, we do

not consider the economic benefits that immigrants give us. We need to look
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forward. Instead of simply preaching at high school graduations about going after

your dreams, let’s hand the undocumented students their diplomas and ask them to

help us make this country better.
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                                    Works Cited

Bender, Steven W. “Compassionate immigration reform.” Fordham Urban Law

       Journal. Nov. 2010.

“Busting the DREAM Act Myths: USCCB/MRS’ Response to the Most Cited DREAM

       Myths.” Justice for Immigrants.

Cole, David. “Five Myths about Immigration.” Current Issues and Enduring Questions.

       ed. Barnet, Sylvan and Hugo Bedau. Boston/New York: Beford/St. Martin's,

       2008. 695-698.

Ehrenreich, Barbara. “What America Owes its ‘Illegals.’” The Nation. 12 June. 2007.

       Web. 24 Feb. 2011.

Greenblatt, Alan. “Immigration Debate.” CQ Researcher. 18.5 (2008): 97-120.

Klein, Ezra. “A Nativist Argument for Immigration.” Newsweek. 27 Sept. 2010.

       General OneFile. Web. 20 Feb. 2011.

McNeill, Jena Baker. “Adding DREAM Act to Defense Bill Is Another Form of

       Amnesty.” Web Memo. The Heritage Foundation. 16 Sept. 2010. Web. 3 Mar.


Rector, Robert. “Amnesty Plus.” The Heritage Foundation. 8 June. 2007. Web. 23 Feb.


Rumbaut, Rubén G. and Golnaz Komaie. “Immigration and Adult Transitions.” The

       Future of Children. 20.1 (2010): 43-66.

Sieff, Kevin. “Undocumented immigrants in JROTC programs wait for the next battle

       over the DREAM Act.” Washington Post. 8 Feb. 2011.
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Sullivan, Laura. “Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law.” NPR. 28. Oct.

       2008. Web. 28 Oct. 2010.

“The DREAM Act: Creating Opportunities for Immigrant Students and Supporting

       the U.S. Economy.” Immigration Policy Center. 13 July. 2010.

“The Economic Benefits of the DREAM Act and the Student Adjustment Act.”

       National Immigration Law Center. Feb. 2005.

Thornburgh, Nathan. “Immigration: The Case for Amnesty.” Time. 7 June. 2007. Web.

       21 Sept. 2010.

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