Contrary to the sales pitch from DREAM Act supporters, the legislation would not be limited to a relatively small number of youthful academic high-achievers and those with a burning desire to serve in our armed forces. The DREAM Act would grant amnesty to people who are well into adulthood and who claim to have arrived in the United States illegally before age 16 (hard to prove or disprove) if they are willing to enroll in a few taxpayer subsidized post-secondary education classes. Earning a degree would not be necessary.
At a time when public colleges and universities are struggling to maintain programs with fewer resources, the DREAM Act would increase demands on these institutions. Most DREAM Act beneficiaries would qualify for in-state tuition benefits which, in some cases, can amount to nearly $100,000 in government subsidies over four years. Those who are not really seeking a college education, but who are merely fulfilling a requirement for amnesty, are likely to inundate already over-subscribed community colleges.
In addition, DREAM Act beneficiaries (who would be indemnified against removal by merely filing an application - even a fraudulent one) would also gain the right to work in the United States and be able to compete with the millions of Americans who are seeking jobs.
At the same time, passage of the DREAM Act would almost certainly touch off an even greater wave of illegal immigration. Most illegal immigrants come because they want to do better for their families. The DREAM Act sends a clear message that if you come to the United States illegally it will eventually lead to citizenship for your kids and potentially hefty public subsidies if they choose to pursue a higher education.
Even though the DREAM Act would apply only to those who are already here, a precedent will have been set. Ten or fifteen years down the line, why will the next generation of kids who were brought here illegally by their parents be any less sympathetic or deserving of amnesty than the ones who are here today?
Admittedly, children who were brought here illegally by their parents are in a difficult situation not of their own making. However much we might empathize with their circumstances, it was the conscious decision of their parents to violate the law which put them there. In this respect, they are no different than countless other children who suffer the consequences of bad decisions and illegal acts committed by their parents. We should not ask law-abiding Americans to bear the costs or sacrifice educational and job opportunities in order to rectify problems that were created by the decisions of people who broke our laws.
Failing to reward the children of illegal aliens with the DREAM Act does not mean we are punishing these kids for the deeds of their parents. Rewarding them with amnesty, on the other hand, would inflict still further harm on American taxpayers, students and job-seekers, and subject them to even more illegal immigration in the future. It is for these reasons that the American public has consistently rejected the DREAM Act since it was first proposed in 2000.
The only effective way to address illegal immigration is to remove incentives to come here illegally and hold people who break our laws accountable. The DREAM Act, unfortunately, fails on both counts.
Dan Stein is president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.