Readers should support the DREAM Act

dreamactOkay, everyone should support the DREAM Act. But especially folks who think books and ideas matter. The undocumented immigrant population in our country is a rich fund of experience, stories, and intelligence, and I want to see these strengths represented in future generations of writers and thinkers. The DREAM Act would make that possible.

First, what is the DREAM Act? It’s a piece of proposed legislation that would provide opportunities for legal status and higher education to undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as minor children. Under the DREAM Act, students who meet certain basic requirements (came to the US before age 16, have been here for five continuous years, have completed US high school or have been accepted to college) would be eligible for permanent resident status after completing two years of college or military service. Read more on the specifics of the DREAM Act on the Justice for Immigrants information page.

Why is the DREAM Act so important? On a human level, it’s about providing opportunities for children raised in the US—many of whom have no memories of their parents’ home country. Without the DREAM Act, there is little incentive for undocumented immigrant kids to pursue higher education because the doors that a college degree would open are bolted shut by their illegal status.

This is a frustrating situation I saw repeatedly while teaching senior English in Southeast Houston. Some of my best students—straight-A kids who spoke perfect English and had been in US schools since pre-K—felt paralyzed by a secret: they didn’t have papers. According to a recent College Board report, an estimated 65,000 undocumented students graduate from US high schools every year. In Texas and nine other states, these kids can attend college and even receive some financial aid, but that is where the opportunity ends. There is currently no clear path to legal status, as this CNN article discusses. Everybody should read this powerful story by an illegal immigrant on the cusp of graduation from Harvard.

Here’s the opening bit:

I was a little girl who hadn’t even learned the alphabet when I overstayed my visa. If the DREAM Act doesn’t pass, I might have to take my degree and go back to a country I never knew.

Okay, so someone you care about—a friend, a student, a family member—would benefit from the legislation. But what do you say to skeptics? Even those who are adamantly opposed to legalizing undocumented immigrants would have to admit that the DREAM Act makes economic sense. I’ll let you do the math, but check out this document on immigration and the economy.

The DREAM Act does not reward so-called lawbreakers; it relieves the consequences of an immigration system that’s broken and protects the children who have been caught up in that system.

Want to do something? Sign a petition in support of the DREAM Act. Contact your senator or representative. The St. Vincent de Paul Society (Catholic social justice organization) offers an easy way to make your voice heard in Washington. Or you can make your voice heard–literally–by calling your representative or senator and asking them to support the DREAM Act. For the U.S. Senate: 202-224-3121. For the House of Representatives: 202-225-3121.


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