Presidential Announcements and the TIME cover: Is the DREAM Act on its way back?

Cover of TIME magazine for June 25, 2012

I haven’t read it yet, but I plan to get my hands on a copy of the June 25 Time magazine because the cover story is close to my heart: the plight of young illegal immigrants who contribute in countless ways to American experience.

The most powerful feature of this article? The first word in its title: “We Are Americans.” Everything could change for young immigrants if others–especially those with legal status–embrace the fact that immigrants are part of the “we” that makes us a nation. 

The Time feature comes right on the heels of President Obama’s recent decision to provide a bit of security for young people without legal status. While it’s a long way from the DREAM Act that would give the children of illegal immigrants the opportunity to access higher education and a path to legal status, Obama’s announcement is important both as a step in the right direction and in the way it has energized the immigration debate. Perhaps we’ll see the DREAM Act come back–and pass. 

As I wrote back in 2010 when DREAM passed the House (only to fail in the Senate), the DREAM Act is 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.

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. 

Is it hopelessly optimistic to think that Obama’s announcement and a story in Time might lead to the passage of the DREAM Act? Probably. But I’ve got my fingers crossed. And I know hundreds of young Americans who do, too.


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