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Mr. Chairman, Legalize the DREAMers

PD Staff Published on 04 August 2011

In the closing days of the 111th Congress, the DREAM Act passed the House with bipartisan support and fell just a few votes short in the Senate despite receiving support from both Democrats and Republicans. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) reintroduced the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act of 2011 or “The DREAM Act” a few months ago as S. 952. In late June, the Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security of the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on S. 952.

The DREAM Act offers permanent legal status to illegal immigrants, up to age 35, who arrived in the U.S. before age 16, provided they complete two years of college or serve two years in the military. These individuals draw special attention because, in most cases, they are in the U.S. not by their own actions, but by those of their parents.

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Here are excerpts of statements made and testimony presented at the hearing.

“Thousands of immigrant students in the United States were brought to the United States as children. It was not their decision to come to this country, but they grew up here pledging allegiance to our flag and singing our national anthem.

“The young people who would be eligible for the DREAM Act call themselves Dreamers.

“Opponents of the DREAM Act always say they sympathize with DREAM Act students. They criticize the details of the bill, but they offer no alternative. Do they want these young people to be deported to countries that they barely remember? Or to continue living in the shadows?

“These Dreamers would happily go to the back of the line and wait their turn for citizenship, but there is no line for them to get into.”
Senator Dick Durbin
(D-Illinois)

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“The sponsors of the legislation claim only children who came to this country through no fault of their own would benefit. But the legislation would actually set the stage for another mass amnesty by putting millions of individuals, not just young people, on a path to citizenship.

It would open the door to massive fraud and abuse of our immigration system. It would greatly disadvantage individuals who are currently standing in line, all around the world, who are following the law and waiting their turn to come here legally. We granted amnesty to 3 million people in 1986, and today we face an undocumented population of 12 to 20 million.

We have learned that rewarding illegality creates more of it.”
Senator Chuck Grassley
(R-Iowa), chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee

“In my three decades of service in the Marine Corps, I served with many people who have immigrated to our nation looking for a better life. Regardless of their backgrounds, they had – and still have – one core mission in life: to serve others.

The Armed Forces of our great nation – a nation of immigrants – have a long and distinguished history of the valor and sacrifices made by those who call the United States home, but are not yet citizens. The topic for today’s hearing, the DREAM Act, expands this opportunity to young people brought to our country as children who are currently in an undocumented status through no fault of their own.”
Dr. Clifford Stanley
Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness,
U.S. Department of Defense

“The DREAM Act should be seen in the broader context of this administration’s comprehensive approach to border security and immigration enforcement, which has achieved important and historic results.

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“Over the past two years, we have focused enforcement resources on identifying criminal aliens and those who pose the greatest security threats to our communities. The DREAM Act supports these important priorities because only individuals of good moral character who have not committed any crime that would make them inadmissible to the United States would be eligible for DREAM Act relief … These individuals do not represent a risk to public safety or security.

Yet as long as there are no legal options available for them to adjust their immigration status, they will be part of the population subject to immigration enforcement under the law. As a result, even though they pose no threat to public safety and do not meet our enforcement priorities, ICE resources may still be expended processing their cases.

“It does not make sense from a law enforcement or public safety perspective to devote limited enforcement resources on young people who pose no threat to public safety, who were brought to this country illegally by no fault of their own and have grown up here, and who want to contribute to our country by serving in the military or going to college.”
Janet Napolitano
Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

“To disparage this legislation by calling it ‘amnesty’ ignores our fundamental values of fairness and justice. Almost 30 years ago, in the landmark Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe, the Supreme Court held that children may not be punished for the actions of their parents. I find it hard to believe that anyone would disagree with that basic principle. But to deny these deserving students a chance to gain lawful status and an opportunity to realize their potential does just that.”
Senator Patrick Leahy
(D-Vermont), chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security

“Educating the individuals who would be eligible under the DREAM Act would benefit our country. Giving them access to an affordable postsecondary education will help these individuals reach their full potential and allow them to be a significant resource to our country. The students who will benefit from the DREAM Act were raised and educated in America.

They have deep roots in America, the only home that many of them likely have ever known. They include volunteers who are committed to service in their neighborhoods. By gaining access to affordable postsecondary education, they will earn more, pay more taxes and contribute to our country’s well-being, all while exhibiting the values of hard work and perseverance that we encourage in all Americans.”
Arne Duncan
Secretary, U.S. Department of Education

“The inability of this large group of young people to obtain any legal status has far-ranging social and economic impacts, not least of which is an obvious impact on the qualified manpower available for the U.S. Armed Forces. Currently, unauthorized young people are barred from enlisting in the U.S. military.

The current military enlistment statute requires enlisted personnel to be U.S. nationals or lawful permanent residents and contains few exceptions to that requirement. The only exception that might apply to an undocumented person is one that would allow enlistment where a Service Secretary has determined that a person’s enlistment is ‘vital to the national interest.’”
Lieutenant Colonel Margaret Stock
U.S. Army Reserves (Retired)

“My family came here legally and we followed the law every step of the way. Despite my compliance with the law, there is no way I can obtain citizenship under current law; despite all my hard work and contributions, I face removal from the only country I have considered home. Despite my aspirations and good intentions for my country, I face deportation in less than a year.

“I am a DREAM Act student. I was brought to this country when I was 4 years old. I grew up here. I am American in my heart.”
Ola Kaso
University of Michigan pre-med student

“The idea behind the DREAM Act clearly has merit. While illegal immigrants raised in the United States do not have a right to stay in America, they certainly have a claim on our conscience. We should act on that claim. But we should do so in a manner that makes sense.

We must deal honestly with the upfront costs of the DREAM Act, ensuring that if we do add a million new students to our community colleges and state universities, we provide funding so as to not crowd out deserving Americans. We must also do so in a way that guards public safety and enforces the law so as not to encourage more illegal immigration in the future. We must adopt policies that discourage fraud, which has plagued amnesty programs in the past.

The college requirement should also be examined. Finally, we should think long and hard about including within the act measures that reduce job competition. This could be accomplished by lowering the number of green cards we issue each year. If we make the right changes, we can have a DREAM Act that would both provide relief to a group of people who clearly need help, while also limiting its unintended consequences.”
Steven A. Camarota
Director of research, Center for Immigration Studies

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