The DREAM Act, which would enable young people who are undocumented immigrants to eventually earn green cards if they join the military or attend college for two years, was once again derailed in the U.S. Senate this week. Supporters fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance the bill, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
Opponents of the act (which stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) say it rewards illegal behavior and is a first step to amnesty. This is the same sort of muddled thinking that killed a comprehensive immigration plan earlier this year.
What a travesty. Except for efforts to build a fence along the U.S.-Mexican border and step up enforcement efforts, immigration issues are no closer to solutions than it was a year ago. Unfortunately, far too many members of Congress have been persuaded by loud, anti-immigrant groups whose "solutions" to the issues posed by illegal immigration are essentially "round 'em up, deport them and secure the border."
If only the issue was that simple.
Sens. Hatch and Durbin nicely captured the complexity of the issue in the language of the DREAM Act. The bill recognizes that many children came to the United States with their parents, who are illegal immigrants. Because these children have been reared in America's culture and educated in American schools, many of them view themselves as loyal Americans. Because the law views them as illegal immigrants, they cannot work legally. If they want to improve themselves through college educations, they may be barred financially because their states do not consider them residents, therefore they do not qualify for in-state tuition rates.
The DREAM Act would have knocked down some of those barriers, which would enable these motivated young people and students to reach their full potential. Despite some senators' reservations about amnesty, Hatch correctly notes that the legislation was "narrowly tailored." Historically, Latinos have had significantly higher high school drop-out rates than their white peers. The act would be a powerful incentive to encourage motivated students to further their educational and citizenship pursuits.
Just as these young people need to pursue their dreams, America, with its perilously low unemployment rate, needs motivated young people in its workforce and its armed services.
Sens. Hatch and Durbin and 50 other members of the U.S. Senate have captured that vision. We hope they will continue to pursue this legislation, which would be a boon to certain individuals and the nation as a whole.