DREAM Act Returns to Senate

By Bryan K. Alfaro | THE EASTERN ECHO
Added May 23, 2011 at 11:40 am

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act was reintroduced to the Senate May 11, by Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and, if passed in its current form, would allow children of illegal immigrants already in the U.S. to obtain a green card.

DREAM Act applicants have a six-year conditional status period to do one of three things: serve a minimum of two years in the U.S. military with an honorable discharge, earn an associate or bachelor’s degree from a college, or complete at least two years in good standing toward a bachelor’s degree.

Director of Admissions at Eastern Michigan University, Kathryn Orscheln, has a positive outlook on this and said the university is not aware of any undocumented students enrolled at EMU.

“I think there are a lot of people who see this as a political issue,” Orscheln said. “I see it as an access to higher education issue. It’s simpler that way. The DREAM Act is designed for those children who were brought to the U.S. — they didn’t choose to come. It recognizes that these students, in their mind, are Americans. This is the only place they know.”

The DREAM Act states undocumented students must prove U.S. residency for five years prior to the act becoming law, have a U.S. high school diploma or GED, pass criminal background checks and display good moral character.

Emily Druker, 19, a native-born Michigan resident and a junior in the elementary education mathematics major program at EMU, said undocumented students should be given a chance.

“I think that a lot of these kids, they don’t have a choice,” she said. “Why not try to give them a green card? And have them work just as hard as everybody else who is a U.S. born citizen.”

The 1982 U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Plyler v. Doe set the precedent for educating undocumented students K-12 in U.S. public schools; the court ruled it unconstitutional to deny illegal immigrant children access to public education. An estimated 65,000 undocumented students graduate from U.S. high schools each year, according to the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan economic and social policy research group.

Regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling on public education, it has been noticed that undocumented students face discrimination from admission to colleges, deportation for advocating change in U.S. immigration policies and higher tuition costs, which could prohibit college entirely.

The National Association of College and University Attorneys say there are no federal laws banning undocumented students from attending U.S. universities. But, state legislatures in Arizona, Colorado and Georgia have passed laws denying undocumented students in-state tuition rates. South Carolina has gone as far as banning undocumented students from all of its colleges.

Undocumented students are not eligible to receive federal grant money, such as Pell Grants, but can receive private scholarships, federal student loans and work-study.

Dominique Zander, 20, a native-born Michigan resident and junior majoring in psychology at EMU, said the DREAM Act is a positive idea and would allow more people to attend college.

“It is a good opportunity, I know from my experience. If I didn’t have scholarships for tuition or whatever, I would not be able to go to college,” Zander said.

In a statement released shortly after the act was defeated in the Senate last December, President Obama said of the DREAM Act: “It is not only the right thing to do for talented young people who seek to serve a country they know as their own, it is the right thing for the United States of America. Our nation is enriched by their talents and would benefit from the success of their efforts.”

Conversely, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), in an article posted on FoxNews.com, wrote, “Amnesty is bad policy for the American people. If the president is serious about helping the economy and putting Americans back to work, it’s time for him to start enforcing our immigration laws.”

But, UCLA recently released a report stating that if the estimated 2.1 million DREAM Act eligible undocumented immigrants became citizens, they would generate approximately $3.6 trillion (in current dollars) in taxable U.S. revenue over a 40-year period. Furthermore, the Congressional Budget Office said if the DREAM Act were passed in its current form, it would reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion over the next 10 years.

However, a new report from the Center for Immigration Studies states the DREAM Act would cost U.S. taxpayers $6.2 billion per year.

The director of research at CIS and author of the report, Steve Camarota, said any long-term benefits wouldn’t help colleges and universities cope with the mass influx of new students.

“There will almost certainly be some crowding out of U.S. citizens, reducing their lifetime earnings and tax payments,” Camarota told Fox News.

In contrast, the UCLA report says, “The DREAM Act represents an opportunity for American taxpayers to significantly increase the return on our current, and already spent, investment in youths that the public school system educates in their K-12 years.”

Related Material:

Eastern Echo article archive: DREAM Act Returns to Senate

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