Few people have ever heard of the so-called Dream Act, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. It is proposed legislation that has been kicked around Congress for over a year--much the same as illegal immigrants have been kicked around for a much longer period of time--that with its passage would make young undocumented immigrants eligible for certain benefits, if they qualify. It failed to pass when introduced in the Senate. It might come up for debate again since there has been growing interest in alternative means, other than enforcement, to address the immigration crisis. It should be passed since it would a step forward in a humane approach to a growing problem.
There are 1,800,000 U.S. raised children, many of whom were toddlers when they were brought into this country by parents who migrated here illegally. These children know no other country, they know no language other than English. These young people are not eligible for many of the social benefits that their contemporaries enjoy, such as tuition or student loans. They cannot apply for or hold a legal job, and unfortunately they are subject to being torn away from their families and homes and deported.
Should the Dream Act or a similar legislative act be passed, an undocumeted immigrant must meet certain qualifications to be eligible to participate:
- Must have arrived in the United States at an age of 15 or younger
- Must have been a resident for a consecutive period of 5 years
- Must have graduated from an American high school or hold a GED
- Must show evidence of good moral character and have no criminal record
The Anti-immigrationists often campaign their cause by inciting fear that the increase in the number of immigrants in the country will increase criminal activity. Think for a minute: if the 1,800,000 undocumented, young immigrants are deprived of education opportunities and cannot find a legal job, would they not likely be attracted to gang participation and be a threat to every community in the nation?
It is inconceivable that the Senate would defeat the DREAM ACT legislation. It was a calloused, inhumane action that will have disastrous consequences. The DREAM ACT gave hope to millions of young people who, through no fault of their own, were brought to this country by their parents who entered illegally. These children have grown up here, speak English, have attended our schools, many have graduated from high school, have assimilated into our culture.
What do they face now? At a time in their lives when they are on the threshold of opportunity to realize their potentials in society, they face the gloom of the difficulty finding employment, of joining the armed forces, of expanding their education, and of contributing to our culture. Think what path they will face. On top or the bitterness they feel, the discrimination, hopelessness, feeling of worthliness, and the fear of deportation will drive many to a life of crime, street gangs and drug trafficing.
Any way you look at it, the defeat was purely politically and partisan driven and will be a black mark on our future from a human rights standpoint. How can that group of senators that voted againt the DREAM ACT celebrate the holy day of Christmas and sing: "Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward Men?" Have they no heart. Disgraceful!