In recent weeks, two states passed versions of the DREAM Act to help increase accessibility of higher education for undocumented immigrants.
On Monday, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law the state’s version of the DREAM Act, creating a private scholarship fund for children of immigrants to pay for college. Moreover, last week, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the first part of the state’s DREAM Act, which will allow undocumented students in California to access private financial aid.
The federal Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act would reward those who have been educated in or have shown their dedication to the United States by providing legal residency to those who have lived in the country since at least age 15 and have completed college or military service for at least two years.
The act would potentially allow those who already contribute to our economy and society to continue to do so.
Undocumented children in Texas who attend public universities currently qualify for in-state tuition rates, thanks to the 2001 passage of the Texas DREAM Act. Twelve other states face similar situations, as they, like Texas, allow illegal residents to pay in-state tuition rates.
The DREAM Act makes sense economically. As it stands now, the state invests a significant amount of funding in educating young undocumented students from K-12 and into college. However, if those students are then denied access into the workforce, the state loses out on its investment.
Even amid the media attention surrounding his speculation of a run for presidency, Gov. Rick Perry has stood by his support for the statewide DREAM Act. Despite his opposition to the passage of the federal DREAM Act, Perry’s continued support for the Texas DREAM Act is, unsurprisingly, raising questions from tea party groups and other conservatives whose support Perry would need to secure the Republican nomination for president.
“From my experience dealing with Iowans in all 99 counties, the immigration issue is a very sensitive issue,” Iowa tea party activist Gregg Cummings told The Dallas Morning News last week. “He’s going to have a tough time trying to answer.”
Nonetheless, Perry defended his support for the Texas DREAM Act. When questioned about the act in an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader last month, Perry responded, “To punish these young Texans for their parents’ actions is not what America has always been about.”
The arguments against the DREAM Act are typically unfounded and consistently fall back on the same hackneyed rhetoric and fear-mongering. The DREAM Act is not an incentive that will encourage illegal immigration.
Rather, it is a gateway to allow a hard-working and educated segment of our population the ability to contribute to its nation. Considering the dismal rates for college graduation and degree obtainment nationwide, continuing to shut out qualified graduates is not just bad policy,
Though it is unlikely that the federal DREAM Act will pass in the immediate future, the passage of state DREAM acts across the country and the U.S. Senate’s hearing on the act in June, the first such hearing, indicate that the act is becoming increasingly important to Americans. Without the DREAM Act, children of immigrants who came to the United States illegally are at an unfair disadvantage, and DREAM acts at both state and federal levels help to rectify that injustice by providing them equal access to the workforce and a path to citizenship.
-Viviana Aldous for the editorial board