Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he would introduce the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act as a stand alone bill during the lame duck session of Congress.
First introduced in 2001, the DREAM Act would address the plight of young immigrants who have been raised in the U.S. and managed to succeed despite the challenges of being brought here without proper documentation. The proposal would offer a path to legal status to those who have graduated from high school, stayed out of trouble, and plan to attend college or serve in the U.S. military for at least two years.
Each year, approximately 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school, many at the top of their classes, but cannot go on to college, join the military, work, or otherwise pursue their dreams. They belong to the 1.5 generation: immigrants brought to the United States at a young age who were largely raised in this country and therefore share much in common with second-generation Americans. These students are culturally American, growing up here and often having little attachment to their country of birth. The vast majority are bicultural and fluent in English.
Research has shown that providing a legal status for young people who have a proven record of success in the United States would be a boon to the economy and the U.S. workforce. University presidents and educational associations, as well as military recruiters, business and religious leaders have added their voice to those calling for passage of the bill. The DREAM Act is even part of the Department of Defense’s 2010-2012 Strategic Plan to assist the military in its recruiting efforts.
Unfortunately, immigration status and the associated barriers to higher education contribute to a higher-than-average high-school dropout rate. The DREAM Act would eliminate these barriers for many students, and its high-school graduation requirement would provide a powerful incentive for students who might otherwise drop out to stay in school and go on to college.