US DREAM Act: Wide-Ranging US Immigration Reform on the Horizon?

by admin on January 16, 2011

US DREAM Act: Wide-Ranging US Immigration Reform on the Horizon?


By Guest Blogger Paul Smith


After almost 10 years of debate, the controversial DREAM Act is one step closer to becoming law, having been passed by the United States Congress. The act was then sent to the Senate who quickly shelved the proposition. The phrase ‘So near and yet so far’ instantly springs to mind.


The Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act is a measure that seeks to provide legal papers for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States when they were children.


Rarely is proposed legislation as protracted or divisive. It was first brought before The Senate in 2001 and, since then, has been called everything from the solution to America’s economic prosperity to a threat to national security. 


Although the legislation would have little affect on individuals currently wishing to immigrate to the US, around 2.1 million unauthorized immigrants brought into the United States as children would be eligible to try for citizenship under the bill, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank. 


The biggest benefactors of this bill – around 80% – would be hereditary Mexican, Latin and Central Americans, although one-in-ten students covered by the DREAM Act are of Asian heritage.


To be eligible, individuals have to meet stringent criteria: they must have entered the United States before age 16; must have been there for five consecutive years or more; must not have committed any major crimes; must graduate from high school or the equivalent; and must complete at least two years of higher education or military service. It is anything but an ‘amnesty on illegal immigrants’ as some opponents have labeled it.


There are an estimated 13 million illegal immigrants living in the US with more migrants arriving illegally every year than those who follow the proper channels. How many of these undocumented migrants are driving without a license, working cash-in-hand jobs and not paying tax? It is clear that the US current immigration policy is flawed. The DREAM Act, if passed, could be just the start of wider-ranging immigration policy reform and perhaps that explains the opposition.


Among other more outlandish statements, Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas, said of the Act, “It puts the interests of illegal immigrants ahead of those of law-abiding Americans.” This is the perspective of some opponents to immigration reform, that giving a small proportion of the best and brightest undocumented immigrants the chance to become citizens is somehow selling short the native population. Rather than sell Americans short, a recent study by the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the DREAM Act would generate $2.3 billion in tax revenue over 10 years.


Even if the DREAM Act does become law, it is possible the authorities would resolutely crack down on all those who don’t qualify as a sort of recompense to those who opposed the bill. This could lead to one family member obtaining Conditional Permanent Residency in the United States while their parents are forced to move back to their ancestral home.     


Rather than focus on the disputes surrounding this one piece of legislation, discussion needs to focus on fair, sensible and comprehensive immigration reform that will benefit the individual and the state – as current US immigration policy is clearly in need of a rethink. The DREAM Act would be a welcome start.

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