Opinion: The cost of a DREAM

by Cougar News Contributor 495 views0

President Obama was recently on the receiving end of a cynical Fox News report (I know. I can’t believe it either).  This time, the president was criticized for a “constitutional violation” he allegedly committed by enacting the DREAM Act in 2012, without any passage of legislation through Congress. However, in similar fashion to previous Fox News reports about the president, this one is also biased and strays far from the truth. In fact, the DREAM Act has not been enacted, but the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was put into action back in 2012.

The reporters accused the president of using his executive order to start the DACA program, which he believes is the DREAM Act in disguise. However, this deferred action program for undocumented youth is only a temporary fix, as it does not provide a path to citizenship for recipients like the DREAM Act would do.

The DACA program allows for eligible undocumented immigrants to remain in the US on a renewable two-year period without fear of deportation. Immigrants under age 31 who qualify can apply for work permits and Social Security cards. DACA recipients do not gain a chance to apply for legal status or a path to citizenship, as proposed in the controversial DREAM Act.

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act provides a path to legalization for eligible youth. Through this law, naturalized students with clean records that were brought to the U.S. as minors would gain a path to citizenship, and therefore a chance at equality.

Unfortunately this legislation has failed to pass Congress on numerous occasions, but President Obama’s executive order has enabled qualifying illegal immigrants to work and go to school on granted two-year renewable deferrals of deportation. This order is not the same as the Dream Act and is limited in its capabilities to help its recipients.

However, this did not stop Fox News reporter Peter Johnson Jr. on a March 2014 broadcast from conflating the two, saying “by the stroke of the president’s pen and whispers in the night to various agencies, they said we’re gonna enact it anyway, even though Congress hasn’t done it, and provide benefits to children of illegal immigrants,” claiming Obama enacted the DREAM Act “by executive fiat.”

The lack of significant Congressional action on immigration reform, particularly a solution for young undocumented immigrants has left these youth in want. The Los Angeles Times reported that “since the program started, more than 40 percent of participants have failed to land new jobs after receiving work permits, and only 45 percent reported getting pay increases” according to a 2013 survey of 2,381 participants, conducted by assistant professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, Roberto G. Gonzales. The recipients have reached the limits of the president’s program, only to be left disappointed as the program has failed to reach its expectations and transform their lives.

Many obstacles still present this group of young individuals, even with the president’s deferred action program, which at its core is just that, deferred action, and not a means to an end. These DREAMers have done nothing undeserving of a chance to be called an American citizen. If anything they have helped their communities and contributed to the overall well-being of society. All they ask in return is a small privilege – something we all take for granted.

You and I forget the honor in being called a U.S. citizen. After all, our society is built on these individuals. Wasn’t America founded on immigrants who came to seek a better life in the Land of Opportunity? How can we take that opportunity our nation was founded on away from a person who has committed no wrong to allow us to do so?

Without the passage of the DREAM Act, countless numbers of hardworking, selfless, and patriotic individuals would have no way to even lawfully stay in the country, much less serve it.

A 2010 study by the UCLA North American Integration and Development Center estimated that between $1.4 and $3.6 trillion would be the total earnings of DREAM Act recipients for the rest of their working lives. This could lead to economic growth and tax revenue for the government, but that is only, of course, if they are allowed to pay such taxes.

A final positive in the passage of the DREAM Act is that it would allow our limited law enforcement resources to focus on detaining and removing criminal aliens, and all those who pose a threat to our national security and public safety; not young scholars and patriots who pose no greater threat than the average American. They pose no greater threat than the average American because they are American, whether they have a piece of paper to back that it up or not. They embody the true nature of the American spirit and the time has come to reward them for it. Don’t limit limitless individuals.