With education reform a major issue in the 2012 election cycle, Americans need to know and understand exactly what sort of policies currently shape the system — or might come to shape the system should they come to pass. The DREAM Act, the full text for which can be found here, stands poised to radically alter schooling and immigration alike should Congress deem it a worthy undertaking. Short for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, the legislation proposed by Utah’s Orrin G. Hatch — which has been circling around the Senate since 2001 — would provide immigrants both conditional and permanent residency if they arrived in the United States before the age of 15; have lived in the country for at least five consecutive years after moving; registered with Selective Service if applicable; are between the ages of 12 and 29; either completed high school or a GED or have enrolled in college; and are confirmed to possess a fine moral character. As of the 2010 alterations, anyway.
The DREAM Act, however, stands as far more detailed and nuanced than that. At its core, the bill wants to help streamline the process through which promising young immigrants attain residency and even citizenship. And, as such, could very well hold a major impact over the nation’s education and job market alike. The DREAM Act currently putters around Congress, but President Barack Obama has already started applying its core tenets to public policy. June 2012 saw his administration cease the deportation of immigrant children who qualify underneath the legislation’s tenets. So while it has yet to pass, the DREAM Act has already started pushing the nation forward when it comes to providing opportunities for those who headed here to seek them.
- Obviously, the most major impact here involves providing educational options for some of the most promising immigrant children currently calling the United States home. College graduates, on average, earn a far higher median income than their equivalents with a high school education or lower. Since the DREAM Act offers an easier (not to mention more empowering) path toward citizenship, this means the nation retains the promising professionals for whom it provides. Which, in turn, would pump more moolah into the sloth-like American economy.
- At the broadest possible level, a society of educated individuals is a society experiencing a decline in crime. Investing time and money into the DREAM Act means lessening the risk of victimization, something which undeniably benefits all Americans across all demographics. Pulling the children of undocumented workers into the mainstream shatters much of the social and economic marginalization that so often leads to heightened crime and violence rates. Rather than shaming them for their residency status, the legislation empowers these intelligent, productive, and promising youngsters to apply their skills toward the dual cause of academic inquiry and pushing humanity forward.
- DREAM Act advocates such as the American Immigration Council also tout how the bill could help save citizens some taxes or two — or at least re-allocate funds toward other matters. While this means increased expenditures on public education (which, as the previous point notes, leads to a much safer nation), it also means more documented workers paying more taxes with higher incomes. For Americans who complain about their hard-earned money supporting “illegals” who “take away all the jobs,” the DREAM Act directly addresses their criticisms of contemporary policies. Directly addresses them to the tune of an estimated $3.6 trillion over the span of four decades, by the way.
- Because the educational tenets of the proposal directly lead to economic growth, it stands to reason that the job market will swell in kind. Rather than allegedly “stealing” positions from “real Americans,” students benefiting from the DREAM Act actually create them. So when looking for a viable solution to the country’s current economic slump, supporting this initiative might lead to exactly what the citizenry wants. And all while providing educational opportunities to the children of immigrants seeking a new life and new chances in the United States. Knowledge, everyone: It truly is power.
- Speaking of power, the DREAM Act also provides incentives to qualified military personnel. Roughly 70,000 of soldiers who enlisted in the Armed Forces since 9/11 are not considered citizens. The GI Bill offers up financial assistance when attending institutes of higher learning, but falls short when it comes to helping them on the road to becoming Americans, should that prove the course they ultimately want to take. The White House believes assisting non-citizen servicepeople with both their educations and their documentation will attract even more to the various military organizations. While this isn’t exactly job creation in the same sense as before, this still establishes some great professional opportunities.
Because Congress seems to endlessly amend the little details of the DREAM Act, policy-savvy Americans need to stay abreast of its current status before casting their votes. Beyond the previously included resources, they should also conduct their own research into what both supporters and detractors have to say. As it stands now, though, the legislation comes packaged with plenty of little perks that could greatly improve the country’s educational and economic standing over time. And, of course, all the subsequent benefits thereof.