A recent study showed that students covered under the DREAM Act will contribute at least one trillion dollars to the American economy over the course of their lifetimes.  Moreover, according to the Congressional Budget Office, enacting the DREAM Act would reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion dollars over ten years.  Our military supports the DREAM Act and it is part of the Department of Defense's 2010–2012 Strategic Plan to assist the military in its recruiting efforts.  From an educational, economic competitiveness, and troop readiness perspective, support for the DREAM Act is a no-brainer.  The intangible benefits of investing in these students’ futures, however, are immeasurable.  These students want, and will have, the chance to go on to college or serve in the military to continue giving back to the only country they have ever called home.

For Latinos, the fastest-growing segment of the nation’s electorate, the DREAM Act vote is a defining one.  For one, a significant number of these children are Latino.  But more importantly, with this vote Congress can reaffirm the fundamental principle that in America we do not punish innocent children.  This issue is near and dear to Latinos because, though the majority of Hispanics are U.S. citizens, we are keenly aware of the devastating effects of congressional inaction on immigration reform and believe America cannot afford to lose another generation of young people who stand to contribute to its economic and social prosperity.

The time for excuses is over.  The DREAM Act has been around for over a decade, and has been debated and supported by members of both parties.  It is time for a vote, and no amount of excuses will hide which members chose to stand for innocent children, and which did not.  And Latinos will remember exactly which side those members chose.

Janet Murguía is president and CEO of the NCLR (National Council of La Raza).