For close to a decade, the Dream Act has been experiencing dÃ©jÃ vu in Congress. Originally conceived in 2001, the act continues to be shot down by conservative opponents, who argue that giving children of undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship is tantamount to exculpating those immigrants for breaking the law when they came into this country.
However principled that argument is, itâÄôs just as myopic. The reality is that thousands of undocumented immigrants reside among us. In Minnesota, conservative estimates peg the undocumented population at about 55,000. TheyâÄôre not leaving anytime soon.
Signed into law, the act would give children of those immigrants a chance at citizenship after earning a college degree. But the act, far from a free pass, stipulates that qualifiers must have lived here for five years, receive exemplary grades in high school and have no criminal record to qualify for citizenship. ThereâÄôs also a military option toward citizenship.
Rather than deny the children of an entire underclass education, which they already receive in American high schools on our tax dollars, the Dream Act would give them the chance to make use of it to improve the economy. Indeed, the act makes economic sense. Just ask the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, a traditionally conservative lobby that nevertheless supports it because the act would lead to a more educated workforce for Minnesota employers.
With the new and decidedly anti-immigrant Tea Party candidates moving into Congress next session, it would be a shame if this lame-duck session doesnâÄôt at least put the Dream Act to the floor for votes. We urge its passage.