Creating a More Intelligent, Accepting America
John F. Kennedy once said, “All of us do not have equal talent, but all of us should have an equal opportunity to develop our talent.”
For the thousands of us here at the university, perhaps coming to college was just the natural course of life. We graduate high school and go on to earn our bachelors degree, just as our older siblings had or just as our parents had before us. At least it was for me. The thought of not being able to go to college never even crossed my mind—I grew up with the mind set that continuing my education was simply the next step, just like the progression of going from elementary school to middle school.
However, for thousands of students across the United States, the idea of going to college with a promise of a future is a dream, one they have been fighting for throughout the last decade.
These students, and many others, have been struggling for years to get the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act passed in Congress.
The proposed legislation allows illegal immigrant children the opportunity to earn a pathway to become American citizens, as long as they meet certain conditions. The children must graduate from a U.S. high school or obtain a GED, have arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16 and be less than 35 years of age, have lived in the U.S. continuously for at least five years, have good moral character and have no criminal charges. The immigrants are allotted a six-year conditional period where they must graduate from a two-year community college, fulfill two years towards a four -year program or serve in the military for at least two years. If, after six years, the student meets these conditions, he or she will be able to apply for lawful permanent residency.
A similar bill to the D.R.E.A.M. Act was first introduced in Congress in 2001, although under a different name. Since then, it has been renamed, amended, reintroduced, attached to various other bills and has failed to pass over and over again.
So what is the harm in allowing children who have grown up in America, who consider America their home, a path to becoming residents of this country? Why should innocent kids suffer for being brought here, when they are not at fault?
There are more than 2.1 million people eligible to apply for legal status under this legislation, however, a study estimates that approximately 38 percent or 825,000 of those people would likely obtain permanent legal status, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
Studies show that allowing these undocumented students a chance to citizenship will benefit the United States, rather than do it harm, like many of the legislation’s opponents believe.
The D.R.E.A.M. Act would reduce the dropout rate of immigrant students, according to a study by the National Immigration Law Center.
The increased number of immigrants graduating high school and college would increase tax revenues and reduce government expenses, creating a large positive fiscal impact, according to the study.
It addition, it would create a legal work force for thousands of people, which would help businesses and the economy. It allows people to give back to the country through their education and knowledge.
Last year I interviewed a young undocumented girl, at a protest in support for the D.R.E.A.M. Act. She had told me that if the D.R.E.A.M. Act did not pass, she would move to Canada, where she had the chance of going to college with scholarships and aid. Why should children that are raised in America go to other countries to offer their knowledge?
Another undocumented student said to me, “This is something that won’t only benefit students, but also the community that they live in because all these students want to do is contribute back to the society that watched them grow for many years.”
These people have grown up in the American system, and if they are going to continue to stay here, they should be an established part of the society, instead of creating a pariah state of uneducated, undocumented, unwanted and under-represented class. Incorporating them will create a more intelligent America.
Saba Naseem is the 2011-2012 Traveler editor. Her column runs bimonthly every other Monday.