Dreaming Up a Real Life DREAM Act

For over a decade, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act has been deliberated in Congress.

On June 15, 2012, President Barrack Obama authorized the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows certain DREAM Act eligible youth, who came to the United States as children, the opportunity to request consideration of deferred action for two years, after which they would be eligible for work authorization.

DACA and the DREAM act do not mean the same thing. DACA is a temporary solution, or, as the President puts it, simply a “stop gap measure.” The DREAM act still needs to be passed as a longer-term solution that is effective nationwide.

At present, thirteen states have already begun to implement their version of the DREAM Act, which will provide a path to legalization for eligible unauthorized youth and young adults.  According to the Center for American Progress, these states, including conservative Texas and Utah, account for over 1.3 million potential beneficiaries.

Nebraska and Arizona are two states that are continuing to show major opposition to the DREAM act and DACA. Both states collectively have close to 100, 000 potential DACA recipients residing there. While Nebraska does allow DACA recipients to apply for in state tuition, they are still not able to obtain drivers licenses. Arizona currently does not allow such potential recipients to obtain drivers licenses and also bars them from paying in-state tuition at the state ‘s three universities.

The logic behind this opposition is not very clear. Most of these children have grown up in these states, have attended most of their K-12 education there and have accessed health care services. Why not allow them attend college which they actually have to pay for?

Barring them from paying in-state tuition is largely counterproductive considering that these individuals are currently living in the shadows and will only continue to hide if there are no benefits from exposing their identities.

Making it possible for them to pay in-state tuition prevents them from being “tax wasters” in the words of Texas Governor, Rick Perry. Rather, they become instead, “tax payers” since a college degree should significantly improve their earning potential.

It would also provide increased revenue for universities who may now have students enrolled that would previously not have been able to enroll due to financial constraints.

Also, preventing them from obtaining drivers licenses does more harm than good. Research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds that 18.2 percent of fatal crashes between 2007 and 2009 involved a driver who was unlicensed or invalidly licensed.  Thus, many unlicensed drivers get behind the wheel anyway.  Allowing those who have reached the legal age to drive the ability to obtain licenses ensures that they are tested on their driving skills, weeding out unskilled drivers and preventing traffic fatalities.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, there are an estimated 2.1 million potential DREAM Act beneficiaries currently living in the United States. While a majority of these individuals reside in states that allow them to at least reap the benefits of DACA, their counterparts in Nebraska and Arizona still face tough conditions.

It is essential for Congress not to wait another decade to pass the DREAM Act so we can begin to eliminate these discrepancies, allowing beneficiaries in all states the same opportunities to excel.