The dream of many Americans is to provide their children with a good education because that may ensure a brighter future for them than it did for previous generations. Recently, these dreams have become limited to legal citizens or legal immigrants. In many states, undocumented students have no rights to an education: “Only 10 states now offer instate tuition to undocumented immigrants. Instead, many states are now looking to roll back in-state tuition or pass laws preventing undocumented immigrants from attending” (Zimmerman, 15). To prevent this piece-meal dissection of educational opportunities, for some ten years, legislation has foundered in Congress that would provide means for higher education to all, including undocumented immigrant children. As Ms. Zimmerman explains (2012), this so-called “Dream Act” is bipartisan legislation that would provide an opportunity for undocumented students with “good moral character,” who have lived in the U.S. for a certain period, to obtain legal status.
This being an election year, and the Republicans being dominated by ultra-conservative segments of the population, this “Dream Act” (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) has no chance of passing. So, within the last week, the President has used his executive powers to approve a temporary two-year period where qualified though undocumented students who arrived before age 16 and have lived in the U.S. for five years, have a two-year temporary exemption for restrictive laws that might keep them from getting a higher education. Republican politicians are now screaming their disapproval and calling this action un-Constitutional.
It seems the real political objection to this Dream Act is two-fold: “The DREAM Act is not focused on allowing illegal aliens to attend colleges and universities. Rather, it is focused on granting citizenship (some would say amnesty) to young illegal aliens who are merely admitted to college or join the military” (Warren, 53). In other words the problem is (1) amnesty and (2) equating opportunity for non-citizens with the rights of citizens.
Regardless of the legality of immigration and restrictive policies which now claim that some 12 million in the U.S. are illegal or undocumented, the children of these families brought over often as infants without any say-so in the trip across borders should not be stigmatized. Many are good students, eager to advance their higher education goals. Some serve, or plan to serve, in the military. Their parents’ undocumented entry into the U.S. should not be a crime for the next generation. And, as a start, the “Dream Act” ought to be enacted. Unfortunately, politicians on the right listen more closely to the wailings of their Tea Party constituents than to the future needs of the nation as a whole. In fact, there is no effort to support any action: “What’s the Republican position on deporting 800,000 people eligible for the DREAM Act? The answer, according to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is: They are waiting for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney to figure out his own position first” (Dennis, para. 4).
That figure of 800,000 is surely a low figure, given the millions who are in this country undocumented. And yet, politicians continue to argue about now “rewarding” illegal activities such as crossing US borders without documentation. The issue is not whether these students are crowding out “regular” U.S. citizen-students. It is, one feels, that these undocumented children are minorities, and not the Caucasian WASPS that are the majority of the Republican party. It is racism at its worst. The DREAM Act and the recent using of the President’s executive powers to extend educational opportunities and eliminate the threat of deportation is extending a helping hand, however temporary, to eliminate fear and offer opportunity for that education and financial security that surely drove their parents to come, with whatever means they had, to seek a better future in the U.S. As President Obama made clear, this is not absolute amnesty. Instead, it is the temporary removal of an onerous burden imposed on children who had no voice in the decision to flee their native lands and come to America.
Dennis, Steven T.: “GOP at a Loss for Message on DREAM Act”
Roll Call [Washington, D.C] 20 June 2012
Warren, Cat: “Accountability, Bureaucratic Bloat, and Federal
Funding of Higher Education” Academe 97. 4 Jul/Aug 2011
Zimmerman, Arely M. “A Dream Detained: Undocumented Latino Youth
And the DREAM Movement” .NACLA Report on the Americas 44. 6