DREAMing of More Than a Campaign Promise
Throughout the mid-term elections, much has been said about the promises made by both political parties to secure votes. Yes, campaign promises are part of any political campaign, but perhaps unprecedented are the commitments made for lame-duck session of the 111th Congress. With the realities of a reduced Democratic majority in the Senate and a Republican controlled House looming, Democrats are eager to push their priorities through while they still can. But, in the mist of political haggling over what should be done and what must be done lies DREAM Act, a bill that should and must be passed.
The DREAM Act is bipartisan legislation that would provide certain undocumented students with the opportunity to earn permanent legal status if they came to the United States as children, have good moral character, finish high school or obtain a G.E.D., and complete two years of college or military service. The bill was recently brought to the Senate floor as an amendment to the defense authorization bill but was never afforded consideration due to a Republican filibuster of the bill.
Since then, the DREAM Act has gained further support, and arguably saved the Democratic majority in the Senate. The DREAM Act galvanized the Latino electorate and record turnout was key to the victories of several DREAM Act supporters, most notably Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. In the Nevada Senate race, Harry Reid's margin over his opponent Sharron Angle among Latinos was 90% - 8%; with Latino turnout up from 12% of the electorate in the 2006 midterms to 15% in 2010. Senator Reid continues to make the DREAM Act a priority and haspromised consideration of the bill during the lame duck session. Speaker Pelosi recently has also made a similar commitment to the bill in the House. Thus, the assurances by House and Senate leadership to take up the DREAM Act, along with statements released by Republican Representatives Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen , urging Speaker Pelosi to schedule a vote this year, demonstrates the urgency felt by legislators in both parties to move on the DREAM Act now.
So, why are House and Senate leadership throwing their weight behind swift passage of the DREAM Act? The simple answer is because they running out of time to make good on their promises. The truth, however, is their clearer understanding of the societal, economic and political value of the DREAM Act.
Two weeks ago, the California Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Martinez v. Regents of the University of California. The ruling preserved in-state tuition benefits for undocumented students who have attended California high schools for three years and received their diploma or GED. The court’s decision emphasizes that our society benefits when we reward, not punish our children for their commitment to higher education.
Perhaps one of the most valuable investments we can make as a country is in the education of our children. A new report released today by the UCLA North American Integration and Development (NAID) Center highlights this fact by revealing the tremendous economic stimulus that passage of the DREAM Act could provide our country as a whole.
NAID’s new report is based on a recent study by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) that provides estimates and characteristics of potential DREAM Act beneficiaries. Looking at two possible scenarios, the NAID study finds that if the DREAM Act were passed, youth legalized through the new law could potentially generate between 1.38 and 3.6 trillion dollars over their work life.
These findings clearly demonstrate the significant economic benefits of DREAM Act through the cultivation of hundreds of thousands higher income earners. Even more importantly, these findings point to the common sense principal behind the DREAM Act: why lose out on the investment we’ve already made in the K-12 education of immigrant children who have grown up here and then deny them the opportunity to pursue a higher education and fully contribute to our society?
This new report once again points to the urgent need to address the plight of so many children who currently face an uncertain future. Passing the DREAM Act before the end of the year is priority because it enhances our ability to have a more educated workforce, increase the tax base and grow our economy.
Recent polling showed that nearly 78% of Latino voters support the DREAM Act. The Latino electorate has grown in size and importance over the years, enabling Latino voters to have a decisive impact in races on all level. The Latino vote provided a clear margin of victory in several close Senate races this election, including the California, Colorado and Nevada. As both parties look to the 2012 presidential elections, making gains on issues important to a majority of this voting bloc becomes more crucial.
Passing the DREAM Act this year is more than just a campaign promise. It is more than just a campaign promise for the thousands of young people who have waited nearly ten years for the ability to pursue their dreams without fear and limitations. It is more than just a campaign promise for Senator Durbin who has worked with DREAMers as their hopes were deferred year after year. It is more than just a campaign promise for Senator Lugar and Representatives Diaz-Balart, who despite some opposition from their party stood firmly with immigrant youth in their pursuit of education. And it is certainly more than just a campaign promise for the millions of people who have spoken out in support through petitions, letters, phone calls and with their vote for swift passage. There is a renewed understanding of the value of the DREAM Act amongst the American public and now our legislators. The time to implement policies that promote economic growth and live up to our ideals as a nation is now. The DREAM Act is more than a campaign promise, it's a legislative priority.
Cross posted from First Focus.