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The DREAM Act: What Does It All Mean?

The past several years have seen a tremendous amount of discussion, dissension, and legislation with regards to education in America. You may be most familiar with the commonly-addressed No Child Left Behind Act, or other policies, procedures, and political agendas and opinions circulating around available education to Americans. One piece of legislation that keeps resurfacing and stimulating conversation is the DREAM Act. As students of the American education system, it helps to be familiar with such legislation.

The DREAM Act, or the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, has been introduced repeatedly and in various forms to Congress many times since it’s first appearance in 2001. While the text has been redrafted, rewritten, renamed, removed, and reintroduced several times over the years, the general intent of the Act has remained the same. The DREAM Act, in essence, creates opportunities for students who meet certain requirements and who have been residing in America illegally as immigrants for a number of years to go to college or enlist in the military. These options create a path to citizenship for these students, and the act seeks to reward students of “good moral character,” as is expressly outlined in the legislative literature.

Not all illegal immigrant students are candidates for the procedures presented by the DREAM Act. In order to qualify for the act’s collegiate or military opportunities, a student must:

• Have arrived in the United States prior to his or her 16th birthday
• Have remained living in the United States for no less than five consecutive years prior to the bill’s passage and enactment
• Have a high school diploma from an American high school, a GED, or acceptance to an institution of higher learning
• Be no younger than 12 and no older than 35 years old at time of application
• Represent and display good moral character

The DREAM Act intends to offer students the chance to contribute and give back to the United States as a country. By allowing students who meet the requirements to further their educations to better themselves and increase their opportunities for success in the future, the act enables individuals to increase their worth and value to the society which helped to advance them this far.

The act is not without its critics, however. Some accuse the legislation of rewarding and even incentivizing illegal immigration. The terms and conditions have also been criticized, with concerns regarding in-state tuition fees being offered for illegal immigrants as well as the age limitations and parameters for eligible DREAM Act candidates.

President Obama has indicated his support of the act; in 2011, California passed the California DREAM Act. More states are already in discussions of crafting their own similar legislation and following suit.

Additional information regarding the DREAM Act can be found by visiting dreamact2009.org.

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2 Responses for The DREAM Act: What Does It All Mean?

  1. David Meyer says:

    Some additional details about how this will effect the wallet of taxpayers: Under the DREAM act, each illegal immigrant who attends a public institution will receive a tuition subsidy from taxpayers of nearly $6,000 for each year he or she attends, for total cost of $6.2 billion a year, not including other forms of financial assistance they may also receive. Can we as taxpayers really afford this now in a time of economic turmoil? I think this money would be better spent educating Americans who are here legally and fully documented.

  2. I don’t think the answer has to depend on the current economic situation. If the economy would be strong now, and there was no national debt, then would your answer be different? I believe the DREAM act should be discussed without relating to the economic situation. If illegal immigrants continue to live in US and their children may graduate from high school, then why not give them the same chances as the legally documented Americans have to graduate from college? By the way, I wonder whether the number of illegal immigrants has increased or decreased during the last ten years or so (since the DREAM act was first introduced to Congress.)

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