The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act was first proposed in 2001 as a bipartisan effort to help children who were brought to the United States without authorization. The goal of the act would be to grant conditional residency for these children and, upon meeting additional qualifications, potentially qualify for permanent residency.
Since 2001, it has been reintroduced several times for consideration by Congress, but it has always failed to pass. So-called “Dreamers” are those who would qualify under this act if it were law, but would not be deported by actions that President Obama took in 2012 despite their current residency status.
The DREAM Act pros and cons are important to consider from economic, ethical, and moral points of view. Here are just some of the key points to consider.
What Are the Pros of the DREAM Act?
1. It provides a meaningful path of citizenship to those who had no say in their status.
Parents often come to the United States, both legally and illegally, to provide a better life for their children. Those children often have no say in whether they come to the US or what their status will be. Many Dreamers came here before the age of 10. Through the DREAM Act, they have an opportunity to stay in the country that they may have always known, receive a path toward citizenship, and still contribute to the American society.
2. It stops the threat of a deportation.
Many children who were brought to the US when they were young have little-to-no family in their country of origin. Deporting them would remove them from the life they know without any opportunity to improve their life in a new nation. The DREAM Act removes the threat of deportation to qualified individuals, allowing them to focus on making a better life for themselves.
3. It would boost the US economy on multiple levels.
Illegal immigrants often come to the US to work in the agricultural industry. Picking jobs in the US West are difficult and time-consuming. Finding workers for them can be difficult. These jobs provide an income for Dreamers and their families, provide contributions to the local economy, and some even pay income taxes to support the national economy. Removing Dreamers could therefore hurt the economy.
4. It would allow law enforcement to redirect their efforts.
There are numerous threats to the United States these days. Some come from regimes like North Korea, while others come from groups like ISIS. Instead of focusing on the children who were brought here illegally, the DREAM Act would allow border personnel and law enforcement agencies to focus on greater threats to the country.
5. It could expand military enrollment.
In 2008, the Department of Defense published data which showed 5% of the US military was represented by non-citizens and naturalized citizens. About 8,000 non-citizens join the US military every year. In testimony before Congress, General Peter Pace noted that immigrants wash out of training programs 10% less often than legal permanent residents. Non-citizens who serve 3 years are up to 20% less likely to leave the service. By allowing Dreamers to stay, the military could be one of the primary benefactors of having formerly illegal children become adults with permanent residency.
6. It adds diversity to the country.
Diversity in the workplace has proven that groups of people with different backgrounds and experiences can fuel greater levels of success compared to groups of people with similar backgrounds. By passing the DREAM Act, the US would be encouraging a greater level of diversity throughout the country, allowing the economy and local communities to benefit from the resiliency and creativity of those who have established a life for themselves despite their illegal status.
7. It has a strong moral argument.
The United States prides itself as a “Christian” nation in many population circles. Helping children who, through no fault of their own, were given an illegal status gives them the opportunity to pursue success. Many Dreamers would be sent back to countries with an unstable political process and could be subject to dangerous conditions. Allowing them to stay follows many of the principles that the Bible teaches, creating a strong moral argument for the law to be passed.
What Are the Cons of the DREAM Act?
1. It reduces the benefits of legal immigration.
If people can come to the United States illegally and potentially receive permanent residency status, then what is the benefit of going through the costs and regulations of legally immigrating? By offering a preferential status to any illegal immigrant, even if they were brought here as a child, then it lessens the meaning of legal immigration.
2. It could increase illegal immigration.
If families know that their young children may qualify for permanent residency one day, then they may illegally immigrate to the US to receive that specific benefit. This would create a potential increase of illegal immigration along all borders, making it difficult to secure communities and private property because of the population influx changes that would be occurring.
3. It removes resources from citizens and legal immigrants.
Dreamers have benefited from public education opportunities as children. They have taken advantage of community resources that are available, like food bank programs. Although everyone has a basic right to live, it shouldn’t be at the expense of people who are following the law. Illegal immigration is a violation of US law, which means those here illegally are taking resources away from those who are complying with expectations.
4. It could take jobs away from legal immigrants and citizens.
Although illegal immigrants often take jobs that no one else wants to do, those are still jobs. There are many legal immigrants and citizens of the US who are unemployed and some have been for a long time. By hiring an illegal immigrant, an employer is taking a job away from a legal immigrant or citizen. The DREAM Act could further encourage this practice.
5. It doesn’t solve the lack of education issues that exist today.
Although more students are graduating from college than ever before, the DREAM Act would require individuals to complete just 2 years of college in its current form. This would mean an associate’s degree at best, which opens only a few more doors compared to a high school diploma. It would also potentially add to the student debt crisis. This means we could still be dealing with a lack of education issue.
6. It could unbalance political systems.
By granting people a path to citizenship, the political systems which are currently established could become destabilized. In communities where many Dreamers live, the changes may only benefit those who supported the DREAM Act.
The DREAM Act pros and cons show that there are legitimate concerns on both sides of the debate which need to be addressed. It is not a current law, but it could be in the future. That is why understanding these key points today is so important.