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Myth vs. Fact: The DREAM Act

The arguments mustered in opposition to the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, have never been particularly persuasive. It’s hard to make a straight-faced argument against providing kids who lack immigration status through no fault of their own an opportunity to go to college or serve the country through military service. The current broadsides levied to block consideration of the bill plainly expose the moral callousness of the opponents.

Still, it’s important to expose the flaws in DREAM Act opponents’ most common arguments against the bill. It should be clear that there is no good reason not to pass it.

Myth: America can’t afford the DREAM Act

Fact: America can’t afford not to pass the DREAM Act

One of the most baseless excuses for opposing the bill is fiscal. Opponents of the bill have tried to throw a series of sensational and utterly unsupported cost figures into the debate, hoping something will stick. But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, did the analysis and concluded that the DREAM Act would reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion over the next 10 years.

DREAM-eligible youths would not be eligible for health care subsidies, including Medicaid, or other federal means-tested benefits like food stamps or Pell grants. More importantly, the alternative of removing the 1.1 million eligible kids would cost taxpayers $25.5 billion over five years.

The far stronger argument is: “America can’t afford not to pass the DREAM Act.”

Myth: The DREAM Act would reward illegal behavior

Fact: This isn’t amnesty. Eligible youth who had no say in the decision to come to the United States would have to work hard to earn permanent residence, and the earliest they could gain citizenship would be 13 years

Opponents grasp for the moral high ground with this feeble contention. The dubious claim that providing a path to legal status somehow violates our commitment to the rule of law is standard fare for opponents of immigration reform. But this tired “anti-amnesty” argument lacks all resonance when applied to this population.

These kids were brought to the United States before they had a say in their life circumstances. Denying them hope and opportunity is punishment for an act beyond their control. Enabling them to work hard and earn the privilege of citizenship is hardly “rewarding” illegal behavior.

Moreover, the hypocrisy of some of the elected officials who would condemn these kids to marginalization is shameful. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), who has confessed to moral waywardness, complains with a straight face that these kids are subverting the rule of law.

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Myth: Passing the DREAM Act would encourage more illegal immigration

Fact: The bill has strict requirements that make only a discrete one-time universe of individuals eligible for relief

When immigration reform of any sort is under consideration the “magnet” excuse returns to vogue like clockwork. To be sure, this bill is not a solution to the problem of illegal immigration. But neither is it a magnet for more undocumented migration. And according to the secretary of homeland security the DREAM Act will enable DHS to better focus its resources on criminals and security threats.

To be eligible for relief under the DREAM Act an individual must have come to the United States before they were 16 years old, and they must have been in the United States for more than five years on the date of enactment. In addition, they must be under 30 years old on the date of enactment and they must prove that they have possessed good moral character from the time they arrived in the United States. Those types of strict requirements—particularly the mandatory number of years in the United States—ensure there will be no surge of undocumented immigrants at the border.

Myth: The DREAM Act would trigger large-scale 'chain migration'

Fact: It would be at least 10 years before a DREAM Act beneficiary could sponsor their spouse or child for permanent residence and at least 13 years before they could sponsor their parents or siblings

Another claim rolled out with monotonous regularity is the “chain migration” excuse. Opponents falsely suggest that the nation’s immigration system authorizes sponsorship of extended family, conjuring up hordes of great-aunts, step-uncles, and third cousins immigrating to the United States once the DREAM Act beneficiary gains legal status.

The reality is that our immigration laws only permit sponsorship of immediate relatives. And the soonest these youths would be able to sponsor their spouses or minor children to come to the United States would be 10 years after enactment. They could not sponsor their parents or siblings until after they became U.S. citizens, which is a minimum of 13 years after gaining legal status. Moreover, if their parents or siblings were in the United States unlawfully they would be required to leave the United States for 10 years before becoming eligible for sponsorship.

A 23-year wait to bring your parents to the United States doesn’t square with the chain migration menace promoted by opponents.

Myth: We have to secure the border before doing anything else on immigration

Fact: Our border is more secure than ever

A prevalent tactic designed to delay taking a position on immigration issues is the “sequence” excuse. This has become the most common and perhaps least defensible talking point to prevent consideration of immigration-related legislation. In fact, the singular focus of our immigration policies for the last nine years has been ramping up resources and implementing enforcement strategies. There are exponentially more boots and barriers on the ground at the southern border, and it is more secure than ever in our history.

Myth: We can’t bother with issues like the DREAM Act when we have more pressing priorities

Fact: It is not an either/or proposition. Congress can address more than one important issue at a time

During this lame duck period we’ve seen a new delay tactic deployed: the “prioritization” excuse. Yes, there is an array of pressing priorities facing the country right now requiring congressional attention. Sadly, the one issue senators opposing the DREAM Act are leveraging to block progress on the nation’s agenda is way down that list: tax breaks for the wealthy. If they showed as much concern for the next generation as they do for millionaires they would realize that this is an investment in future leaders, thinkers, and entrepreneurs.

Dealing with the expiring tax cuts is certainly an important topic for congressional attention. But it should not be to the exclusion of other critical issues. We elect our officials on the assumption, or at least the hope, that they can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Myth: We need more time to analyze the DREAM Act

Fact: The basic elements of the bill are well understood and have been considered many times over the last nine years

Last but not least is the process excuse, a standard ploy to justify delaying a vote. Opponents complain that numerous versions of the bill have been introduced and they need more time to thoroughly analyze it.

But this is not a new or complicated bill. The basic elements of the DREAM Act are straightforward, well understood, and have been considered numerous times over the last nine years. It has been introduced every Congress since 2001. It passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 16-3 vote in October 2003. And it passed the Senate Judiciary Committee again in 2006 by voice vote as part of the McCain-Kennedy comprehensive bill, which passed the full Senate by a 62-36 margin.


We have three basic options for addressing the situation confronting these young undocumented people: deport them to a country they barely know; preserve the status quo and consign these talented kids—who include valedictorians—to a hopeless future; or pass the DREAM Act and give them an opportunity to work hard and earn the privilege of citizenship.

The first and second options are morally bankrupt and fiscally irresponsible. As mentioned earlier, deporting the 1.1 million youths whom the Congressional Budget Office has concluded would qualify for benefits under the bill would cost taxpayers about $25.5 billion over five years. Preserving the status quo is to accept system failure and allow these youngsters to languish unproductively on the margins of society. Both options run counter to America’s economic interests and to core American values.

The truth is, only the third alternative—passing the DREAM Act—makes economic, practical, and moral sense. Indeed, most (but not all) of the bill’s opponents fear the politics around the bill more than they object to the substance. That tension between fear of the far right’s backlash and what’s right as a matter of policy and justice has driven them to evade the obligations of governance. The evidence of evasion lies in the transparent dissembling used to justify preventing a vote.

It’s time for Congress to quit machinating and start solving problems. No more stale, flimsy excuses. The American public strongly supports the DREAM Act. The time has come for Congress to stand and deliver. This dream has waited long enough.

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

This article was published by the Center for American Progress.

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2 comments on this story

Dec 13, 2010, 10:37 pm
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The United States House of Representatives has approved the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act. This election came mostly across on party lines. Young adults who came to the country as kids are given an option with the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act; creates a “path to citizenship”. The Senate might very well filibuster the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act might even enable those involved to get personal loans someday.

Dec 7, 2010, 6:35 pm
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Majority Senate Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois predicts the Dream act will come up for a vote this week. We cannot let Senator Reid and his demagogues lever this badly worded immigration bill in for a vote. With Senator Reid at the helm of his Liberal ship, he cannot be allowed to pass this law—as is? It will cause another Chain Migration avalanche of family members, who eventually will end up on the welfare rolls. This became predominant after first of sixth amnesties that began in 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli bill. There is absolutely no question that in the coming years, student family members will become a further economic encumbrance on the middle class once—Chain Migration—is underway. This nation cannot afford this monstrosity of a bill, in this fiscal period with America teetering on a 14 Trillion dollar edge of insolvency. This is not just about the US treasury, but almost every State the money reservoir are badly depleted from the illegal alien welfare programs.

California-the Sanctuary State—on the front line of illegal immigration has serious money problems.

Just because someone does not agree with the provisions of the Dream Act, does not mean they are a racist. When the Tea Party memberships were branded as racist, the illegal alien students lost their argument with American people. For over twenty years citizens and permanent residents have been paying for children of illegal alien parents in education through K-12, health care and a host of other welfare entitlements. This includes the babies intentionally born in this country, so the parents cannot be deported and able to collect food stamps, medical in the name of the baby. The average population grows from instant citizenship children of 300 thousand a year. Taking advantage of the badly interpreted 14th amendment, that gives instant citizenship to the infants of illegal alien mothers.

It seems the more the taxpayer gives, the more foreign trespassers demand. The Dream Act is another ideology born of Liberal progressives who seem to believe we as a nation have an obligation to support every impoverished person, who manages to slip through our borders either on foot, vehicle or by plane. As I have repeated before-there will be more taxes needed to pay for this back-door amnesty. Those taxpayers who have had enough,  Scourge your Senators with your words and your Members of Congress to oppose the DREAM Act Amnesty—202-224-3121 NumbersUSA for details. NumbersUSA will inform you of the truth.

Illegal alien students are not exempt from joining the armed services in time of war. Once enlisted in the U.S. Armed Forces, under 8 USC § 1440, these illegal aliens can become naturalized citizens through expedited processing, often obtaining U.S. citizenship in six months?  Every student or any foreign national has the option of being recruited for the military, without the need for passing the Dream Act.

With regards to States as Arizona, California, Texas and New Mexico being financial impacted by the illegal alien occupation. If the Federal governments failure to enforce our border with a national military presence or the original double layer fencing barrier, then states should have a right to police the best way they can in protecting Americans from foreigners who cross the border with an intentions to do harm or other criminal activity. The US Supreme Court should do the right thing for every state that is under continuous bombardment by economic illegal aliens and dangerous persons, that has propagated across our country. SCOTUS should see through business entities such as the US Chamber of Commerce, whose main involvement is profitable gain for its business owner subscribers. Include in these complainants organizations who have a financial interest in bringing in illegal aliens, such as immigration attorneys who make their living in filing documents and consultations with the influx of people.

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DREAM Act supporters in Boston, Nov. 29.