The Dream Act is an acronym. It stands for “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors.” This legislation was first proposed in the United States Congress in 2001. The goal of it was to provide children, brought to the U.S. by parents arriving without legal documentation, to provide a path toward permanent residency.
If passed, the legislation would immediately grant a conditional residency for all qualifying children.
The Dream Act has never been enacted into law in the United States. It was first introduced in 2001. Several different variations of the legislation have made their way through committees since then, but it has never passed through Congress to be signed by the President. In response to these failures, DACA was created as a way to protect these children.
Here are the biggest pros and cons of the Dream Act to think about.
List of the Pros of the Dream Act
1. It reduces the idea that certain undocumented residents are a national threat.
One of the components of the Dream Act is similar to the DACA requirements that were issued. To qualify, undocumented children would be required to pass a background check. They would likely be required to pay a fine for their technically illegal status. They would also be required to follow certain steps, without exception, to remain within the program. In return, permanent residency would be offered, which might include a path toward citizenship.
2. It would provide an economic benefit.
Undocumented citizens contribute financially to local, regional, and national societies. Many of them pay taxes. They buy food at local grocery stores. They shop at local businesses. At the same time, many of the jobs these people work is difficult and not desired by a majority of employment-eligible citizens. That means that the people covered by the Dream Act not only help to meet the needs of society, they also help it grow in multiple ways.
3. It stops the threat of deportation.
Greisa Rosas had her father deported to Mexico after 22 years in the United States because he didn’t make a complete stop at a stop sign. Without a driver’s license, the process took just 7 days to remove him from the country, despite owning a house and working for a state university in Texas. Shelly Blanco had her husband put into jail because he sold a gram of cocaine 21 years ago and he was deported because his parents brought him from Cuba when he was 8 and never applied for citizenship. The Dream Act would stop stories like this from happening.
4. It would allow law enforcement to focus on real problems.
There are undocumented citizens that do commit crime, sometimes violent crime, and deserve to be deported. An outlier study by the University of Arizona suggests that undocumented residents commit violent crime at 146% the rate of documented or natural-born citizens. The Dream Act would allow law enforcement to focus on these violent offenders instead of worrying about people who don’t make a complete stop behind a line on the road.
5. It creates a society that is diverse and strong.
The studies on workplace diversity all come to a definitive conclusion. When people from different socioeconomic, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds come together, more can be accomplished. McKinsey discovered that a diverse executive board generates a 14% higher EBIT and a 53% higher ROE. Credit Suisse found similar results from their own study. The Dream Act would allow these results to be seen on a national level within U.S. society.
6. It would bolster the military.
About 5% of the U.S. military are people who are not natural-born citizens of the country. They include naturalized, non-citizens, and even undocumented individuals. People who have served the military come from Iraq, have escaped terrorist organizations, and endured other hardships. There are currently about 900 serving members of the U.S. military that are enrolled in DACA. The military’s own research shows that non-citizens train better, are more productive, and remain loyal more when compared to natural-born citizens.
7. It follows in the traditions of U.S. founding fathers.
The United States was formed from the idea that all men are created equal. That one observation was so strong that it led the founding fathers of the United States to create a new country around it. Many families came into this country under circumstances that were similar to what undocumented families are facing today. It is true that many families were sent back when they tried to enter the United States in the past as well but sending people back to dangerous political circumstances when they could contribute to the U.S. society seems like a waste of talent and skill just for documentation.
8. It keeps the promises made by the government.
Current figures place 97% of “Dreamers” in either the U.S. workforce or in school. These people enrolled into DACA in the first place because it was an opportunity for them to potentially legalize their status. The people in DACA want to be in the United States. They see it as their only home. For some, it has been the only home they remember. That is why more than 800,000 people have paid $495 per application and renewal so they could stay in school or at their job.
9. It reinforces the sovereignty of the U.S. government.
A sovereign nation has the right to declare who is allowed to immigrate to the country. It is allowed to permit specific people to live and work here on a temporary or permanent basis. It is allowed to decide if administrative amnesty is something that should be allowed for under the law when all branches of government are consulted.
10. It would stop the constant process of renewal.
Under DACA, qualifying individuals are required to apply for a 3-year period for work authorization and from the threat of removal. Anyone can apply, even those who have been given a final removal order or have a voluntary departure order. It also creates an authorized stay, so individuals are not accumulating unlawful presence upon approval of their application. The Dream Act would formalize this process and eliminate the constant process of renewal since it would offer a chance at citizenship.
List of the Cons of the Dream Act
1. It may encourage more families to attempt living in an undocumented status.
If the Dream Act were to pass, it may encourage more families to establish residency in the United States without following proper immigration channels. Even though they would not qualify for the Dream Act provisions, there would be the hope that another piece of similar legislation might come through Congress at a future date. That could put border communities at-risk for higher levels of crime, homelessness, and other issues that could make it difficult to secure them.
2. It lessens the pride which comes from legal immigration.
The cost of legally immigrating to the United States can be quite high. The cost of an F1 visa, for example, was $360 in 2017. The cost of conditional legal residency in the United States is about $1,560 and continues to rise. A second “green card” is required for permanent residency, which was $680 in 2017. Then there is the cost of the N-400 and legal feels to file for citizenship. In total, the average person pays about $4,000 at minimum to become a naturalized citizen of the United States. For a family of six, that’s $24,000. A family of six here illegally would not be paying those costs. That is why illegal immigration lessens the pride of what comes from legal immigration. Undocumented citizens receive similar benefits without paying the same costs that others pay.
3. It lessens the equity local resources are able to provide.
The Dream Act would lessen the equity of local resources. Families that moved to the United States illegally have taken advantage of public healthcare, public schools, and public infrastructure to their own benefit. Of course, each person has the right to live and pursue happiness in a way that suits them, but it must be done within the confines of the existing laws. The Dream Act would potentially allow people who broke the law to benefit from their activities without facing any consequences.
4. It has educational standards that are not beneficial.
Many of the Dream Act bills that have come through Congress since 2001 have included an educational requirement as part of the permanent residency qualifications. It requires a 2-year degree to be obtained. Many high school students, through dual enrollment, can achieve an Associate’s degree before they even graduate with their diploma. The reality of a 2-year degree compared to a high school diploma is that the two are essentially the same. It would be more effective to require a 4-year degree or even a graduate degree to allow qualifying individuals to benefit from the Dream Act.
5. It could change the political structure of the United States.
The United States is based on a two-party political system. Polls from various news organizations suggest that the majority of people who would qualify for citizenship under the Dream Act and possibly be allowed to vote one day would vote for Democrats. With a shift of up to 1.8 million votes toward the Democratic Party, the political structure of the United States could change with this legislation. It could put liberal policies ahead of conservative policies and further the deadlock that Congress already experiences.
6. It could change how employment is obtained.
Although unemployment rates are near or at record lows at the beginning of 2018 for many demographics in the United States, there are still people who are out of work. It has been said that undocumented workers perform jobs that others will not do, but that is not always the case. When an employer hires an undocumented worker, they take that job opportunity away from a legal citizen. Because of the potential provisions found within the Dream Act, this issue may expand and encourage the practice over time.
7. It may have questionable Constitutionality.
Not even the Constitutionality of DACA has been determined by the judicial system in the United States. Even though many supporters of the Dream Act point to the fact that so-called Dreamers have benefitted from 5 years of growing interests in U.S. society, there is no legal evidence that the legislation will pass all three branches of government. With no guarantees and questionable Constitutionality until the justice system rules on it, there is more uncertainty with this potential legislation than questions that it is able to answer.
8. It is a legal debate, not a moral or ethical debate.
The decisions for immigration begin in Congress, are signed by the Executive branch, and then reviewed by the judicial branch. DACA was originally created through executive action and is more of a policy on immigration enforcement than anything else. How can people take the laws of the United States seriously when the President can decide, at leisure, which laws should be enforced, and which laws should not be? If the laws on immigration were enforced consistently, then the need for the Dream Act would completely disappear. It could be argued that enforcement should be a top priority, not the introduction of new legislation.
9. It reinforces the sovereignty of the U.S. government.
A sovereign nation has the right to declare who is not allowed to immigrate to the country. It is allowed to exclude specific people to live and work here on a temporary or permanent basis. It is allowed to decide if administrative amnesty is something that should not be allowed for under the law when all branches of government are consulted.
10. It could encourage higher levels of crime.
Research from Regis University suggests that peer pressure is the greatest influence on the amount of any type of crime that is seen within a community. Allowing people to break the law by not enforcing immigration statutes is a way to create peer pressure that allows more people to break the law. Over time, specific neighborhoods could become hotspots for crime simply because of the forces that one legalized family is able to exert over the rest of the neighborhood. If just one family in a one-kilometer circle is allowed to break immigration laws, the impact is that a 10% increase in similar crime becomes possible.
11. It does not expressly forbid U.S. entry.
Under current immigration laws, people who spend 180 days in the United States illegally can leave and apply for re-entry in 3 years. Individuals who spend 1 year or more in the U.S. can leave and apply for re-entry in 10 years. The Dream Act is therefore not necessary. The structures are already in place for people to find an authorized way to come into the country. Waivers are even permitted to eliminate the waiting period for some individuals.
The biggest pros and cons of the Dream Act show us that this debate will have real consequences for people, whether the legislation eventually passes one day, or it does not. Lives hang in the balance. Families could be uprooted or torn apart. Communities may see security issues or find new resources available to them.
The Dream Act may never become an official law. Because it is often introduced for debate, however, knowing these key points makes it easier to understand the complexity of this issue.