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Smith 1 Carly Smith Marlene Kobre Argument 4/4/11 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 Smith 2 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 Smith 3 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 Smith 4 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 Smith 5 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 Smith 6 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). Smith 7 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 Smith 8 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. Smith 9 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. 2011. Rector, Robert. “Amnesty Plus.” The Heritage Foundation. 8 June. 2007. Web. 23 Feb. 2011. 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. Smith 10 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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