On October 5, 2013, Immigrant Dignity and Respect Day, marches took place in more than 150 cities throughout the United States in an effort to motivate Congress to pass immigration reform. Immigrant activists hoped the nationwide marching would trigger a focus on the need for immigration reform. Since the Senate passed its version of an immigration bill in June, many immigration reform supporters fear that the House members have already forgotten about immigration reform. Unfortunately, the recent federal government shutdown overshadowed the October marches because the media and society the public focused on the inability of Congress to compromise on the debt-ceiling crisis. The day of marches might not have had as much of an significant impact that as the participants originally planned, but the marches did positively contribute to the immigration reform movement.
Many cast doubt on the effectiveness of the marches and argue that the shutdown “throws a wrinkle” into an already volatile debate. However, to the contrary, participants argue that the timing shows just how determined individuals remain in fighting for immigration reform. The marches illustrate that even a government shutdown will not deter people from continuing to argue for changes in immigration laws. One activist described this motivation when he said we will “raise [our] voices even louder and hold politicians accountable [because] immigration reform can’t wait any longer.” The marches also provided the opportunity for immigrants to realize how many other people endure obstacles because of current immigration laws. and the number of marchers will hopefully provide some sense of unity and comfort.
Immigration reform remains the one lone bipartisan issue that Congress can pass act on to show the nation that the federal politicians can work together, even after failing to do so and causing the federal government shutdown. John Boehner said that he won’t vote for a bill like the one proposed in the Senate—which version that would legalize an estimated 11 million people living in the country illegally— unless his party supports it. Unfortunately, many Republicans, like Representative Bob Goodlatte, who oversees the immigration legislation in the House, strongly oppose anything that resembles the Senate bill. However, after the devastation and public backlash following the government shutdown, the GOP might be more willing to pass bipartisan immigration reform to so it has a positive accomplishment to emphasize during the 2014 elections.
The Republicans cannot ignore the need for new immigration policies. As Chicago Governor Pat Quinn said, “This is an issue for all Americans. This isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue. This is an issue about people, real people, everyday people who come together and work hard and raise families. They want immigration reform and they want a vote, that’s what democracy is all about.” If the Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on a complete comprehensive legislation on immigration reform immediately, at least they should specifically at least focus on passing the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.
The DREAM Act will not solve all immigration problems, but it will at least provide some relief to the youngest undocumented people living in the U.S. The DREAM Act would allow undocumented students, who arrived in the U.S. prior to age sixteen and grew up here, the opportunity to apply for temporary legal status. If the individuals go to college or serve in the U.S. military, they could potentially become U.S. citizens. The DREAM Act would also provide students with federal financial aid, which they are currently prohibited from receiving due to their undocumented status.
The DREAM Act will assist many children whose parents brought them to the U.S. at a young age when they had no choice in the decision. Although Obama already passed the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” which provides temporary protection from deportation for youth living in the United States, it’s not a complete solution. Even though more than 430,000 applications have been approved, just as many applications remain delayed. Furthermore, these undocumented youth legitimately fear deportation since the Obama administration has already deported two million people, including only avery few convicted violent felons.
The DREAM Act is essential to the future of the undocumented immigrant youth. Right now, individuals do not have the ability to attend college because they can’t afford it or have a fear of being deported. States, like California, have their own form of the DREAM Act, which sets a good example for the federal government. However, state legislatures cannot pick up all of the federal government’s lack of the federal government. It is in our country’s best interest to allow these young children to receive an education. If Congress does not pass the DREAM Act, then many undocumented youth brought here by their parents will not reach their full academic potential and could face deportation.
Critics of the DREAM Act argue that it would cost taxpayers $6.2 billion a year and would “crowd out” U.S. students in schools. In response, advocates insist that the DREAM Act would create 1.4 million jobs and add $329 billion to the U.S. economy because the undocumented immigrants would receive a higher level of education and obtain more qualified jobs in the future upon their college graduation. Therefore, the DREAM Act will benefit the American economy by creating more productive individuals. Without the law, young immigrants will probably decide to leave the U.S. to contribute to other countries’ economic developments. If the DREAM Act passes, no one knows what the costs will be, but shouldn’t the benefits—the educational future of our youth—surpass any potential costs?
After the shutdown ends, Congress must act immediately to relieve immigrants living in the United States, especially the youth. Please comment below about when you think immigration reform should pass and what you believe the benefits and/or costs are of the passage of the DREAM Act.