Newsham: Make the DREAM a reality

The lame-duck session of Congress started Monday, and the months to follow will not be pretty. Thanks to the gridlock facing the Senate since early 2009, several important legislative issues — including unemployment benefits, Chinese currency manipulation, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the Bush tax cuts — have been put off, and the Democratic Congress now has about a month to address them.

But there is one piece of legislation with bipartisan support that we cannot let fall through the cracks — one that can reduce spending, strengthen our economy, and provide new opportunities for 65,000 students per year.

The DREAM Act, a bill that has been on the table since 2001, is a measure designed to help undocumented students attain citizenship while they strive for the American dream. The DREAM Act will benefit young people who entered the United States before the age of 16, have lived here for at least five years and have earned a high school diploma or GED in that time frame by offering them the chance for permanent residence upon the completion of two years of college or military service. It also unambiguously allows states to provide in-state tuition to undocumented residents, a step many states have already taken.

Every year, 65,000 undocumented students graduate from American high schools. Among them are athletes, prom queens and honor roll students; aspiring teachers, doctors and soldiers. But many have nowhere to go. The military is closed to undocumented immigrants, and due to a 1996 law, most states do not offer in-state tuition for them, meaning college can be cost-prohibitive. For those mere 5 to 10 percent of undocumented high school graduates who do go to college, they must go through the process of getting a green card before they can put their skills to work in the American economy.

The DREAM Act is a simple fix. Though some may say the costs are too high, the DREAM Act isn’t a dead-weight expenditure; it’s an investment in America’s future, and the return is massive. According to a 1999 RAND study, a 30-year-old immigrant with a college degree will pay $5,300 more in taxes and cost the government $3,900 less every year compared to a high school dropout — a fate all too common among undocumented students — in similar circumstances. Smart workers strengthen the American economy, and we want them to be a part of it.

The 10 states that have passed DREAM-Act-like legislation of their own, providing in-state tuition to undocumented residents, have shown no massive influx of undocumented immigrants, nor have they been hit with the massive costs that opponents of the bill have predicted. Combined with the federal DREAM Act, state laws like these could open doors for tens of thousands of students every year.

This past weekend, the Yale College Democrats and MEChA de Yale sponsored the Connecticut DREAM Summit, an event organized with the help of Lorella Praeli, an undocumented student at Quinnipiac University who came to the United States at age 11 for medical care, and two recent college graduates, Carolina and Camila Bortolleto, who are unable to put their skills to work as a result of their status. I had the opportunity to meet a resident who was frustrated at the requirement of citizenship for many college scholarships. I heard from an undocumented law student who had received job offers from as far away as China, yet was frustrated that he was still unable to work in the United States, the place he calls home. I met an undocumented student who ranked fifth in her high school class, only to be misled by her guidance counselor that applying to college would result in the deportation of her family. For their sake and the sake of thousands of young people just like them, we have to end this wave of fear and crushed hopes, and passing the DREAM Act can bring us so much closer.

Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have both promised to raise the DREAM Act during the lame-duck session, but with so much else on the agenda, it may be crowded out. For the sake of 65,000 young minds per year — artists in the making, future teachers, engineers and contributors to a stronger America — we cannot let this happen. Nine years of waiting is long enough. Make time this week to call Reid and Pelosi and remind them to keep their promises, and call your own senators and congressmen to let them know: it’s time to stop deferring the dream.

Jack Newsham is a freshman in Morse College.

Comments

  • ignatz

    Let’s see if I follow this argument. We absolutely must invest billions of dollars NOW to subsidize college education for the children of illegal immigrants. Why? So they’ll cost the government $3,900 less each year after they graduate from college! Gosh, this sounds like another splendid example of Barney Frank economics (BTW, has anyone yet written a comedic best-seller called “Frankenomics,” or is the field still open?). Perhaps there’s a reason why this legislation hasn’t moved in nearly a decade, despite the cutesy “DREAM” name affixed to it. Let’s hope this lamest of lame-duck Congresses lets it die quietly.

  • jnewsham

    @ignatz: Hey, no “argumentum ad big numbers.” You gave one vague, hypothetical number of the collective tuition subsidy–“billions of dollars”–but you implicitly belittled the benefit as”$3,900″ per student. If you’re going to argue that the costs assume all 65,000 undocumented high school graduates nationwide were to go to college for four years, yes, you may indeed have a figure in the billions–$3.9 billion over four years, assuming a $15,000 tuition subsidy for in-state residents, which, correct me if I’m wrong, is a fair estimate–but then I don’t think it’s fair for you not to calculate the benefits on the same macro level.
    If we were to assume that each of those students were to go on and cost the government $3,900 less every year, as well as (and you forgot to mention this) paying $5,300 more in taxes per annum, 65,000 x (3,900+5,300) = $598 million in additional tax revenue every year. Thus, in under seven years, the entire cost of giving the student in-state tuition is recouped in government savings. Over the course of the student’s working life–suppose it amounts to 40 years, and that these college graduates retire at 62–they will have contributed an additional $368,000 in government revenues, a sixfold return on the initial investment.

    A couple things, though. It is obvious that all 65,000 undocumented HS grads every year do not go to college, nor will they after the passage of the DREAM Act. Currently, between 5-10% do; we’d be lucky to see it go up to 20%. So, assuming, say, a total of 13,000 undocumented students getting in-state tuition (and this may not even be the case, as the individual states dictate whether undocumented students receive in-state tuition), the costs come out to $780 million over four years. The benefit of those students’ educations = $4.784 billion dollars in additional revenue, plus a more educated and competitive workforce, plus 13,000 lives made several times better with a college education and the ability to work in the place they call home.

    That’s why I’m hoping for the passage of this bill. It’s common sense, and really should be bipartisan! In its last session, it had 40 cosponsors in the senate, two of whom were Republican.

  • River Tam

    The DREAM Act incentivizes illegal immigration. “Come to America and not only will you earn much more money than you could in Mexico, but your children will go to college for free as well! Just keep voting Democrat!”

    Ugh.

  • Madas

    Geese, do you just write about what’s on MSNBC each week, or is that just a coincidence? Your writing has the same feeling of intellectual assault of Paul Krugman or Keith Olbermann, only it’s sloppy seconds ’cause they came up with everything first.

    YDN editors, please tell me this guy isn’t staff. If he is, you guys are incompetent.

  • jnewsham

    @River: Unfortunately, I had to clip this bit from my article, as it was running too long.
    “The ten states that have passed DREAM-Act-like legislation of their own, providing in-state tuition to undocumented residents, have shown no massive influx of undocumented immigrants nor have they been hit with massive costs that opponents of the bill have predicted. Combined with the federal DREAM Act, state laws like these could open doors for tens of thousands of students per year.”

    @Madas: Any legitimate gripe with this column?

  • The Anti-Yale

    Immigrants abound on both sides of my family tree. “I got got mine” so to heck with you. That is apparently the immigration hospitality greeting being advocated by those who pour tea.

  • River Tam

    @jnewsham –

    Your argument, cribbed almost verbatim from The Immigration Policy Center’s talking points, is disingenuous at best.

    “DREAM-Act-like legislation” has been passed in 10 states, four of which (Texas, California, New York, and Illinois) alone account for more than 50% of illegal immigration. Immigration Policy is more honest in their claim: that these states “have not experienced a large influx of new immigrant students *that displaces native-born students.*”

    It’s undeniable that the DREAM Act incentivizes illegal immigration. Quite literally, *it increases the monetary benefits of illegal immigration*. That’s the definition of an incentive.

    Like MEChA says, “Por La Raza todo, Fuera de La Raza nada”

  • ShaveTheWhales

    Isn’t there a cut-off date? A date that roughly says that any illegal immigrant who enters the country after some year (2005?) will not eligible to receive the benefits from this DREAM Act?

  • jnewsham

    @ShaveTheWhales: I can’t find anything regarding a year-of-entry cutoff, but the bill does contain the limitation that those covered under the bill must be between 12 and 35 at the time of its passage and entered the United States before 16.

    @River: Okay. I’m still not sure I’m seeing your point. If they haven’t experienced an influx that displaces native-born students, that is not an incentive if a college education isn’t the goal of your immigration. An incentive is something that motivates someone to do something. I think you’re kind of oversimplifying it if you refer to in-state tuition as pure “monetary benefits.”

    Though there probably aren’t that many out there for undocumented immigrants, something tells me that a reduced-rate college education wasn’t high on their list of reasons for illegal immigration, particularly when we’re talking about kids as young as twelve. I did a bit of research, and it looks like UNAM, Mexico’s leading public university, levies a fee of $150 per semester upon those who can afford it. Why would they want to come over here to spend $3000 minimum for public education? Source on that UNAM stat: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UNAM

  • jnewsham

    *that should read, “Though there probably aren’t that many polls out there on undocumented immigrants…”

  • silliwin01

    “@Madas: Any legitimate gripe with this column?”

    He had a ‘legitimate gripe’, namely that your article was poor in quality and lacked any reasonable facsimile of independent critical thought.

  • River Tam

    > Though there probably aren’t that many out there for undocumented immigrants, something tells me that a reduced-rate college education wasn’t high on their list of reasons for illegal immigration, particularly when we’re talking about kids as young as twelve.

    Are you kidding? Have you ever *met* an illegal immigrant? Do you think they’re risking life and limb to get across the border to pick your oranges because they *like it*? They do it – admirably – to build a better life for their children. Free college is certainly on that list of priorities.

    By the way, there are three reasons why comparing UNAM to any American state university is ridiculous for at least three reasons. For one, entrance to an American school means greater access to an American job market. For another, UNAM is ranked in world rankings (which don’t even account for things like undergraduate education, which is poor at a 300k+ student university) below basically the entire UC school system and most Texas schools. For another, UNAM is the ONLY Mexican University that’s even listed in top 500 world university rankings. Schools that make this ranking: University of Nevada: Reno, Kent State University, Portland State.

    Get to know a few illegal immigrants before thinking you know everything about their situations. Access to educational opportunities is *unquestionably* one of the top reasons that Mexicans hop the border and come to the US. All the illegal immigrants I’ve met are wonderful people who are doing it for the “right” reason (ie: for their kids, to escape crushing poverty, etc). Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep it illegal and avoid incentivizing it further.

  • ignatz

    @Jnewsham: Only someone who’s channeling Barney Frank could simultaneously believe that we need to invest billions more — pronto — in yet another scheme to “make people’s lives better” AND that it will all pay for itself in just a few short years. Have you ever MET an Economics major? Take one to lunch some time! You’ll learn a lot, and — it’ll pay for itself almost immediately…..

  • River Tam

    > Have you ever MET an Economics major? Take one to lunch some time! You’ll learn a lot, and — it’ll pay for itself almost immediately…..

    There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

  • pablum

    >Only someone who’s channeling Barney Frank could simultaneously believe that we need to invest billions more — pronto — in yet another scheme to “make people’s lives better” AND that it will all pay for itself in just a few short years.

    I wish that someone as prescient as you — and as duly concerned by Barney Frank’s spectral ability to spiritually possess witless progressives — had been around to dissuade Eisenhower from establishing the interstate highway system. We could be *billions* of dollars richer as a nation if we simply learnt how to make do with country roads.

    >Have you ever MET an Economics major?

    It’s true that most economics majors will argue that it is impossible to ever see a return on investment. All value is fixed and never changes. When you spend capital, it disappears forever.

    BUY GOLD NOW.

  • JordonWalker

    I still don’t understand why people think the government should be rewarding deviant behaviour. Illegal immigrants should not be funded through the hard earned dollars of American citizens. Moreover, the notion that this bill will strengthen our economy, although partially true, is terrible in its implications for all degree holders. Subsidizing education for an illicit portion of our society will only cheapen the already dubious value of an undergraduate degree and further facilitate the rapid neccessity for advanced education, which many Americans can not afford–given the debt accrued from undergraduate loans–or simply do not desire.

    Also, citizenship (inclusive of those who legally immigrate) should have some type of tangible value. If we extend the right of citizenship to those who would skirt and entirely ignore our laws, what does that say about the value we hold in our legal system?

    Tons of individuals immigrate to this country every year. They followed the normal, legal pathway to citizenship and it is an absolute insult that illegals are given the same reward, without the associated cost. Special provisions should not be made for those who break the law. All illegals should be deported. Citizenship is not a right, it is a Dream–for those who were not lucky enough to win the birth lottery–and like all Dreams it should be realized only upon the completion of hard work, which–given the provisions thus outlined–is clearly not required by this bill. It is repugnant that this bill has even been considered, let alone come this close to actual passage.

  • River Tam

    > It’s true that most economics majors will argue that it is impossible to ever see a return on investment. All value is fixed and never changes. When you spend capital, it disappears forever.
    BUY GOLD NOW.

    How’s that humanities major going?

  • pablum

    >How’s that humanities major going?

    This is your second dig at my academic specialization, which leads me to believe that you’re simply out of ideas. Your brain must run on a two-gallon tank.

    Since the humanities are the domain of logic, philosophy, rhetoric, history, and other bastions of humanistic scholarship, I do however take it as a compliment. I don’t hold any ill will against you; I’m sure that whatever vocational degree you’re working towards will provide you with an adequately comfortable career.

  • River Tam

    > This is your second dig at my academic specialization, which leads me to believe that you’re simply out of ideas. Your brain must run on a two-gallon tank.

    I didn’t really think it necessary to respond to a non-sequitur.

    > Since the humanities are the domain of logic, philosophy, rhetoric, history, and other bastions of humanistic scholarship, I do however take it as a compliment. I don’t hold any ill will against you; I’m sure that whatever vocational degree you’re working towards will provide you with an adequately comfortable career.

    I admire the humanities – as I’ve noted elsewhere, one of my majors is in the arts/humanities block. I do think it silly, however, that humanities majors tend to look down their noses at those students who seek to earn a living and not sit around whining about how society isn’t paying them enough to sit around and think.

    Isn’t it funny that I managed to deduce that you were a humanities major, though? I assure you – it was not because of your mastery of logic, philosophy, or rhetoric.

  • pablum

    I’m not a humanities major. And nowhere did I denigrate those who choose to go into fields other than the arts or social sciences. That’s something that you fabulated out of nothingness — much like the absurd false dilemma that to propose between “whiny” humanists and “hard-working” everymen.

  • River Tam

    > And nowhere did I denigrate those who choose to go into fields other than the arts or social sciences. That’s something that you fabulated out of nothingness

    “I’m sure that whatever vocational degree you’re working towards will provide you with an adequately comfortable career.”

    The condescension drips.

    You also suggested that “the humanities” was “the domain of logic”

  • pablum

    A “vocation” is a job. If your degree is a means to that end and to that end only, it is a vocational degree. There is nothing wrong with that.

    >You also suggested that “the humanities” was “the domain of logic”

    It is. A large portion of the humanities is based on analytic or speculative logic alone.

  • River Tam

    > A “vocation” is a job. If your degree is a means to that end and to that end only, it is a vocational degree. There is nothing wrong with that.

    No degree is only a “means to an end”, since as I’m sure you would agree, learning has intrinsic value to the self.

    > It is. A large portion of the humanities is based on analytic or speculative logic alone.

    Philosophy is based on logic, but I’d hardly call it the “domain of logic”. The domain of logic is math – it’s alarming how many philosophy students I know who can’t understand basic set theory and have no ability to comprehend anything Godel (the most famous logician [or certainly top 3 with Russell and Socrates] in history) did.