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Dreaming about the DREAM Act and the Rights of Immigrants

Eighty-six percent of undocumented immigrants have been living in the U.S. for seven years or longer. This country is their home.

“Illegal” immigration is misunderstood by many American citizens. Many people think that “illegal” immigrants come from only bordering countries when in fact there are technically illegal immigrants from all over the world. There are many reasons someone might be here without proper documentation. Undocumented residents aren’t necessarily illegal residents. They haven’t done anything criminal by living in the U.S. Being undocumented is a civil offense, not a criminal one.

A telling example is people who have outstayed their visas. At one point they were welcomed into the U.S, but are now unwelcomed. There are so many different situations to examine; my point is that we can’t make blanket statements about why people are here without the right documents and, therefore, there is no blanket solution to immigration in the U.S.

On August 1, 2001 the DREAM act was first proposed to Congress. DREAM stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors. Under this act, people who are between 12 and 35 years of age are eligible for residence in the U.S if they arrived before the age of 16. There is also an education requirement: eligible persons have to graduate from an American high school and get a certain amount of higher education.

Today the DREAM act is still a bill and has not received enough votes to become a law. This act has received substantial support from both parties. I think this act is one of the best things that could happen to the state of immigration in the U.S. I believe that there needs to be a better system for undocumented citizens to get American citizenship. Why are we rejecting citizenship to students who want to make contributions to our country?

There is no process in place for current undocumented residents to get their citizenship. Many have been living in the U.S for a while. The statistic above from the Office of Immigration Statistics reveals this: the DREAM act could be a solution for many people.

I don’t understand why we can’t give citizenship to an educated teenager who has lived in this country all his or her life, wanting nothing more than to be recognized as an American.  According to http://dreamact.info/, this is the home country of about 65,000 undocumented high school graduates each year.

An article on the website of the Association of International Educations ( nafsa.org ) argues, “Opposition to the DREAM Act ignores the value to the U.S. economy of legalizing this group of motivated, hard-working young people.”

Although some people argue that immigrants without the right papers take jobs away from Americans, undocumented residents play a large in role in our economy. Instead of punishing people who are looking for opportunity and better futures for their children, punish the American corporations who bring people here illegally for cheap labor. (A good example of a corporation who has done this is Tyson Foods.) These corporations promise prosperity to their new employees, but this promise ends up backfiring on the immigrants when they are sent back to their country of origin without any of the advertised benefits.

I think that we, as educated Americans, should reconsider the role immigration plays in the American story. In the almost four years that Obama has been in office, there have been more people deported than during the eight years Bush was in office.The place people call the melting pot or salad (whatever metaphor you prefer) now has a lower percentage of immigrants than other nations.

Whether or not you have a stance on immigration, I encourage you to think about what your citizenship means to you. There is no rule in place saying that everyone has to  “earn” his or her citizenship. Lucky for me I was born in the U.S and so I don’t have to face this crisis. But another teenage girl who has lived in the U.S all her life, maybe longer than I have, is not recognized as an American.

If someone was brought to the U.S at a young age, he or she should be recognized as American.  If someone is the product of an American education and wants to contribute to American society, he or she should be allowed to stay. Anyone who can truly call the U.S. his or her home should be welcomed with open arms.

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