Our view: Keep DREAM alive - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Our view: Keep DREAM alive

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Posted: Sunday, December 12, 2010 3:00 am | Updated: 4:16 pm, Wed Mar 2, 2011.

Cutting off your nose to spite your face.

That well-worn idiom essentially means you’re willing to hurt yourself to hurt someone else. And it’s a good way to describe those who oppose the DREAM Act, a major piece of federal legislation that would provide a legal path to citizenship for students who are in the United States illegally because their illegal immigrant parents brought them here as young children.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act would in fact give the American workforce an injection of talented, highly skilled workers to make us more competitive globally, would increase the recruiting pool for our armed forces, and would cut the national deficit by $1.4 billion and increase government revenues by $2.3 billion over the next 10 years, according to the White House.

But stubborn DREAM opponents — like Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and U.S. Senator John McCain, to name two — can’t get past the fact that these children, through no fault of their own, were brought here by illegal immigrants.

Brewer said this week that she can’t support DREAM because it’s a “reward (for those who) have broken the law in Arizona.”

“It’s an unfortunate situation,” Brewer said. “My heart does go out to those people. But they need to find citizenship through a legal manner.”

That’s actually what the DREAM Act would do: Provide a legal path to citizenship, in fact a very rigorous path that only “cream of the crop” students would be able to follow.

The White House website does a good job of debunking the falsehoods circulating about this important legislation.

First of all, DREAM is NOT amnesty, as some opponents claim. The only students who would qualify are those who entered the United States when they were younger than 16 and can prove they have continuously lived in the U.S. for at least five years and graduated from a U.S. high school or obtained a GED. They also must demonstrate good moral character and pass criminal background checks. After meeting those conditions, they would be given a conditional status for six years. At the end of that time, they would be required to show that they attended college or served in the U.S. military for two years, pass another round of criminal background checks, and again demonstrate good moral character. If they failed to meet these requirements, they would lose their legal status and be subject to deportation.

In addition, DREAM applicants would be required to pay fees to cover the costs of having U.S. Customs and Immigration Services process their paperwork.

Second, the DREAM Act would NOT encourage more students to immigrate to the U.S. illegally because it only applies to youth who are already here and who were brought here as children; it would not apply to anyone arriving later, according to the White House. And, DREAM applicants would NOT be able to petition for entry of their parents or siblings until meeting the legislation’s requirements, and would then still be subject to annual caps and waiting periods to petition for their relatives. “The bottom line is that it would take many years before parents or siblings who previously entered the country illegally could obtain a green card,” according to the DREAM Act fact sheet.

Third, taxpayers would NOT be subsidizing college aid for DREAM applicants. Those who obtain lawful permanent resident status would only be eligible for federal student loans which must be paid back, and for work-study programs. They would not be eligible for federal grants.

But the most compelling facts surrounding the DREAM Act are the benefits it would bring to our nation:

• The Department of Defense supports the legislation because it needs to expand the pool for military recruits.

• It would play a major role in keeping the U.S. competitive globally by helping us attain the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020, according to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

• A UCLA study found that DREAM applicants could add between $1.4 trillion to $3.6 trillion in taxable income to our nation’s economy during their careers if they gain legal status.

• Secretary of Homeland Security and former Arizona governor Janet Napolitano maintains DREAM would allow immigration and border security to focus their resources on deporting criminals, rather than going after children.

These are all good arguments for supporting a law that would give these young people — who yes, were brought here illegally — a path to citizenship, but more importantly, a chance to give back to the country that has educated them in our schools, cared for them in our hospitals, and provided opportunities for they and their families to live a better life. The DREAM path to citizenship is not an easy one; only the most determined and deserving will make it to the end. They will have earned their citizenship — and we will reap the benefits they bring to our tax base, our national security and our efforts to remain competitive in a global economy.

To deny them — and us — the DREAM is cutting off your nose to spite your face.

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