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What Does the DREAM Act Mean to You?

posted Jan 26, 2011, 3:58 PM by Sumiyia Jafri   [ updated Jan 26, 2011, 4:24 PM ]
By Sumiyia Jafri, Esq. 
January 26, 2011. 

President Obama indirectly addressed the DREAM Act in his State of the Union address last night, making clear that he plans to keep the dream alive. 

Today, there are hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens...Some are the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet live every day with the threat of deportation.

He rightly referenced the hardships and suffering which many immigrants must endure, through no fault of their own. The vast majority of these children and young adults arrived within our borders when they were still too young to comprehend the illegal nature of their parents' actions. Many have grown and advanced through American education systems, and see themselves just as American as their peers. Yet their continued academic excellence, and their very presence in the only place they recognize as "home" is under a major life-altering threat. 

If passed, the DREAM Act would provide certain illegal and deportable alien students who graduate from U.S. high schools, who are of good moral character, arrived in the U.S. illegally as minors, and have been in the country continuously and illegally for at least five years prior to the bill's enactment, the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency if they complete two years in the military or two years at a four year institution of higher learning. The DREAM Act has the potential to ease the hardships of hundreds of thousands of these children and young adults, yet the bill continues to languish away in Congress. 

Though the plight of these individuals is a major concern for us as Americans, President Obama also touched upon another vital point. The fact that seems to get lost among all the partisan politics over this issue is that the American society and economy has much to gain by keeping these upstanding individuals within our borders. As the level and quality of education continues to decline nationwide, we cannot afford to lose those of us who excel academically. We cannot afford to lose those of us who have a very real potential to become our future leading entrepreneurs, inventors, politicians, researchers, professors and policymakers. 

Now, I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration. I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows. I know that debate will be difficult and take time. But tonight, let's agree to make that effort. And let's stop expelling talented, responsible young people who can staff our research labs, start new businesses, and further enrich this nation.

Surely this is something we can all agree upon, whether Democrat, Republican, Independent, or whatever our political loyalties may lie.