DREAM Act – path to the American dream

            I was fortunate to be born and raised in the United States and I know that when I graduate college, my hard work may be rewarded with good job prospects and a future full of possibilities.

            Unfortunately, the nearly 2.5 million undocumented youths living in the United States today will not be able to say the same when they earn a college degree. Without a Social Security number, even a diploma from an Ivy League university is essentially worthless in this country.

            It hardly seems fair that my peers, many of whom have lived in the U.S. for many years and were brought to America by their parents when they were young, should have their dreams denied when they finally graduate and look to enter the work force.

            In 2001, the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act, co-written by the late Senator Ted Kennedy, was introduced into Congress to address this issue. If passed, the DREAM Act would allow undocumented students who have graduated from a U.S. high school a pathway to legal residence and citizenship after earning a college degree or serving two years in the U.S. military.

            It is fair. It allows kids who have finished high school and who have been in this country for more than five years a chance to give back to America by either serving in the U.S. military or contributing to the economy as an educated member of the work force.

            Undocumented students will have more incentive to stay in school and display “upright moral character” in order to obtain the legal pathway to citizenship. The U.S. is a country of immigrants – looking to pursue their American dream.

            Unfortunately, not everyone sees the bill this way. Opponents argue that the DREAM Act could crowd out U.S. citizens from the colleges and jobs of their choice. They say it will encourage a greater influx of immigrants to the United States. They say it will provide an easy and automatic path to citizenship. While these are all valid concerns, they are common misconceptions about the DREAM Act.

             The DREAM Act will not discount the opportunities of U.S. kids. Whether a student is undocumented or not, they should still do well in school and graduate from college to improve their chances of getting a good job. This bill would simply allow undocumented students the same opportunity to contribute to America as other hardworking students.

            The DREAM Act will not lead to mass immigration into the United States. Students are only eligible for the DREAM Act if they moved to the United States before the age of 15 and have lived here continuously for at least five years.

            Additionally, the bill will not provide automatic citizenship to students once they graduate college. Rather, it provides for temporary legal residency in the U.S. During this time the students must earn a college degree or serve in the U.S. military. Following this, the new college graduates or veterans can apply for U.S. citizenship. That said, if passed, this bill has the potential to give hope to the futures of 65,000 high school graduates each year.

            My college has a respectable number of undocumented students who work hard, are talented, and contribute greatly to student life on campus. It hardly seems right that they should have to live with few prospects and fear of deportation after graduation – a time when most of us will be looking forward to the next chapter of our lives.

            While the presidents of more than 15 universities – including Yale, Stanford, Tufts, Princeton, Harvard, Northeastern and Columbia – have come out in favor of the DREAM Act, it still faces an uncertain future.

            It is time for us to speak for our peers who don’t have a voice and are forced to live in the shadows. For the sake of the American dream, let’s support those students who look toward higher education and military service in America as a legal pathway to legal residency and help them translate their dream into a reality. It is time to pass the DREAM Act.

            Write your senators and local congressman to encourage them to support the DREAM Act. For more information on the DREAM Act, visit dreamact.info.


                                                            Reprinted with permission from the Houston Chronicle

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