The DREAM Act would allow a select group of immigrant students with great potential to contribute more fully to America. These young people were brought to the U.S. as children and should not be punished for their parents’ mistakes. The DREAM Act would give these students a chance to earn legal status if they:
- Came to the U.S. as children (15 or under)
- Are long-term U.S. residents (continuous physical presence for at least five years)
- Have good moral character
- Graduate from high school or obtain a GED
- Complete two years of college or military service in good standing
The DREAM Act would benefit the U.S. Armed Forces. Tens of thousands of highly-qualified, well-educated young people would enlist in the Armed Forces if the DREAM Act becomes law. The Defense Department’s FY 2010-12 Strategic Plan includes the DREAM Act as a means to help “shape and maintain a mission-ready All Volunteer Force.” Defense Secretary Gates, who supports the DREAM Act, says it “will result in improved recruitment results and attendant gains in unit manning and military performance.” General Colin Powell has also endorsed the DREAM Act, saying, “Immigration is what’s keeping this country’s lifeblood moving forward.”
The DREAM Act would stimulate the American economy. A UCLA study concluded that DREAM Act participants could contribute $1.4-$3.6 trillion to the U.S. economy during their working lives. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who supports the DREAM Act, says, “They are just the kind of immigrants we need to help solve our unemployment problem. It is senseless for us to chase out the home-grown talent that has the potential to contribute so significantly to our society.”
The DREAM Act includes important restrictions to prevent abuse. DREAM Act participants are not eligible for Pell and other federal grants and are subject to tough criminal penalties for fraud. DREAM Act applicants must apply within one year of obtaining a high school degree/GED or the bill’s enactment; and must prove eligibility by a preponderance of the evidence. To be eligible, an individual must submit biometric information; undergo background checks and a medical exam; register for the Selective Service; demonstrate the ability to read, write, and speak English; and demonstrate knowledge of the history and government of the U.S. An individual cannot qualify if he or she is ineligible for immigration relief on criminal or national security grounds.
The DREAM Act has broad bipartisan support in Congress and from the American people. In the 111th Congress, the DREAM Act passed the House and received a strong bipartisan majority vote from 55 Senators. According to a recent poll by Opinion Research Corporation, 70% of likely voters favor the DREAM Act, including 60% of Republicans.
The DREAM Act is supported by labor, business, education, civil rights and religious groups, including the AFL-CIO, the National PTA, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the CEOs of Fortune 100 companies like Microsoft and Pfizer, and dozens of colleges and universities.
Eric Balderas just finished his freshman year at Harvard, where he is majoring in molecular and cellular biology. Eric's mother brought him to the United States from Mexico in 1994 when he was 4. Eric was valedictorian and student council president at his high school.
Herta Llusho was brought to the United States from Albania when she was 11. She and her mother settled in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.
Herta and her mother came to the United States legally. Shortly after arriving, Herta’s mother filed an application to stay in the United States.
Herta quickly learned English and became an academic star. She graduated from Grosse Pointe South High School with a 4.05 grade point average. In high school, she was a member of the varsity track team, won an Advanced Placement Scholar Award, and was a member of the National Honor Society.
Herta is currently a junior at the University of Detroit Mercy, where she is an honors student. Herta is studying to be an electrical engineer. She has a grade point average of 3.98 and has completed two internships at engineering companies.
Herta is also very involved in her community, volunteering at homeless shelters, tutoring programs, and her church. One of Herta’s friends said:
“I am humbled by Herta’s willingness and desire to serve. I have had the privilege of going to the same church at which she faithfully serves. She spends hours tutoring kids and volunteering with the junior high Sunday school class. It’s a joy to watch so many children run up to her at church because of the love they receive when they are with her.”
In 2009, after nine years of legal proceedings, the government placed Herta and her mother in deportation proceedings. Herta said:
“I was shocked. My friends are here, my education is here, my community is here. All of a sudden, I was asked to leave behind everything I know and go back to a country I barely know. When I lived there, I was little, so I don’t remember it much and I barely speak Albanian anymore.”
Herta’s community rose to her defense. Thousands of people signed an online petition to stop her deportation. Last year, the Department of Homeland Security granted Herta a one year stay of deportation.
Herta came to Capitol Hill to speak at a briefing on the DREAM Act. She said:
“I’m a typical story. There’s thousands of stories out there just like mine. Please support the DREAM Act so students like me don’t have to leave. We are worth it. This is the country we have come to love.”
Tam Tran was born in Germany and was brought to the United States by her parents when she was six years old. Tam's parents are refugees who fled Vietnam to Germany as boat people at the end of the Vietnamese war. They could not return to Vietnam because they were persecuted by the Communist government in Vietnam and the German government refuses to accept them. Tam graduated from UCLA with honors with a degree in American Literature and Culture. She was studying for a Ph.D. at Brown University when she was tragically killed in a car accident. On May 18, 2007, Tam testified in the House Judiciary Committee:
I was born in Germany, my parents are Vietnamese, but I have been American raised and educated for the past 18 years. ... Without the DREAM Act, I have no prospect of overcoming my state of immigration limbo; I'll forever be a perpetual foreigner in a country where I've always considered myself an American.
- Read more about Tam in a Los Angeles Times maganize cover story (Tam is identified as Thi)
- Read Tam's obituary in the Boston Globe