DREAM Act to change immigration landscape

This is a guest opinion post by Judith Bernstein-Baker, executive director of HIAS and Council Migration Service of Philadelphia.

One of the main priorities of this “lame duck” congress is the passage of the “DREAM Act” a bill introduced by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) that will enable young immigrants who have been raised here and have worked hard in school to earn legal status if they pursue higher education or serve in the military.

In order be placed on a path to citizenship, students must have entered the U.S. before they were sixteen, lived in the U.S. for 5 years before the bill’s passage, be a person of “good moral character” as revealed through background checks and graduate from high school, and go on to complete additional requirements related to attending college or completing military service.

The bill has widespread bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, and according to a public opinion survey conducted in June, enjoys the support of 70 percent of Americans. The DREAM Act is supported by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the Los Angeles Area Changer of Commerce, and many Mayors across the country, including NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.

Scores of institutions of higher learning support the DREAM Act including Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University. (Partial list available here)

The students who would benefit under the DREAM Act have been raised and educated in the U.S.  According to supporters, the arguments for the DREAM Act are:

  • State and local taxpayers have already invested in the education of these children in elementary and secondary school. The DREAM Act would recover that investment for taxpayers: Raising the college graduation rates of these students will mean increased tax revenues resulting from higher incomes.
  • Without the DREAM Act, there is simply no way for these promising young people to remain in the U.S. legally, complete their studies or serve in our military, and make further contributions to our country.

Ms. Bernstein-Baker is the executive director of HIAS and Council Migration Service of Philadelphia. HIAS and Council provide pre-migration counseling, law-related immigration assistance and representation to refugees and immigrants from over 60 countries.

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