The Dream Act: America’s soft power

It is our system of government, our culture, our way of life that allowed Sonia Sotomayor to become the first Hispanic on the Supreme Court, Sergey Brin to cofound Google, Pierre Omidyar to found eBay, and Fareed Zakaria to rise to fame as a journalist and the host of a prominent TV show. There are hundreds of Sotomayors in Puerto Rico, Brins in Russia, Omidyars in Iran and Zakarias in India. One of the main reasons why they are successful in America is because of our system. American foreign policy must reorient itself to the soft power of exporting American values and know-how so the Sotomayors, Brins, Omidyars and Zakarias in Puerto Rico, Russia, Iran and India can find success at home.

A second fact lost in the debate on Capitol Hill about the Dream Act is that global prosperity requires a new narrative on immigration and cross border migration. If we allow the poor to escape to the rich and then redistribute this wealth to take care of the needy new arrivals, we will only impoverish ourselves in the process. Global prosperity must increase if we are to address this issue seriously and therefore it is imperative that wealth be created indigenously. 

This is especially true for the economies of Mexico, Central and South America. We must immediately launch a Marshall Plan for our neighbors to the south, establish a micro-finance plan for those who want to go back to their home countries but need start-up capital, and create a private-public partnership plan so that jobs are created south of the U.S. border and immigrants (illegal and legal) who are living in the U.S. have the option to return to their homelands and re-build new lives for themselves. Last year America imported $180 billion dollars worth of goods from China. Imagine for a moment a scenario where American consumers purchased these same goods from our southern neighbors; creating a win-win situation for all involved – except the authoritarian regime in China.

It is in this context of a new narrative on the soft power of exporting American values and need to create wealth south of our border that the Dream Act must be debated by Congress – and ultimately supported. Allowing illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition to attend state public universities is a good idea provided we ask these students that once they complete their studies, they return to their home countries to serve and rebuild.  

In the 1960s, the government of Iran established the Education Corps and Health Corps, made up of young men and women with college degrees from the U.S. who served their country by teaching reading and writing and by administering health care. This model can be duplicated across America where legions of illegal students armed with U.S. college diplomas in economics, engineering, computer science and health management fan across the globe and embed themselves in their native communities to serve and rebuild.  

In short, Congress must support the Dream Act with one caveat: eligibility should be contingent on a willingness to return to their homelands and help in the economic development of their home countries. This way, an educated Salvadoran or Mexican or Ghanaian can contribute to the socio-economic situation of his or her country by taking advantage of the generosity of American taxpayers. Overtime, creating wealth in El Salvador, Mexico and Ghana is to everyone’s advantage.
Congressional support of the Dream Act as a means to assist in the establishment of good governance in countries like Ghana, El Salvador or Mexico is in America’s national interest.
Rob Sobhani, Ph.D. is CEO of the Caspian Group and graduate of Georgetown University.


More Foreign Policy News

See All
See all Hill.TV See all Video