Saturday, December 04, 2010

Warring Over Dream Act

By William Fisher

Immigration enforcement would be improved if Congress approves the DREAM Act that would legalize hundreds of thousands of undocumented students brought here illegally by their parents when they were children, said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Napolitano, once the governor of a Southern border state, Arizona, lobbied for the act in remarks to reporters from around the country during a conference call from Washington.

She said passage of the DREAM Act would enable DHS to focus more aggressively on deporting foreign criminal convicts.

"It's important to point out that the DREAM Act fits into a larger strategy of immigration enforcement, and would actually complement the Department of Homeland Security's efforts to prioritize our enforcement resources on removing dangerous criminal aliens from the country,'' Napolitano said.

Napolitano was clearly trying to persuade recalcitrant Republican lawmakers that the DREAM Act would complement enforcement, and that it was not an "amnesty" bill for undocumented immigrants.

Passage of the DREAM Act, she said, will allow Homeland Security to concentrate on catching the “criminals-first'' for the government’s deportation program. So far this year, the administration of barrack Obama has deported more people than were deported by his predecessor, George W. Bush, in the eight years of his administration. But despite Obama’s pledge to focus on serious criminals, many of those deported had been convicted of minor infractions, such as broken taillights and missing drivers’ licenses.

According to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, the DREAM Act will be brought up to a vote during the lame-duck session. However, the timing of the debate is unclear and the clock is ticking on the crowded calendar of the so-called Lame Duck session.

When Congress returns in January, Republicans will control the House of Representatives and the Democratic majority in the Senate will be diminished.

Meanwhile, the Immigration Policy Center (IPC), launched a blistering attack on a new report from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), an organization that advocates immigration reduction in the United States.

IPC asserts that CIS's “cynical mischaracterization of the DREAM Act is not only inaccurate, but hypocritical as well.”

The CIS report claims that, “On average 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 that they may also receive.”

Wendy Sefsaf, Communications Director for the American Immigration Council, which is affiliated with the Immigration Policy Council, told IPS, “We have no idea where these numbers come from. They are not only inaccurate; they are incomplete – for example, they assign no cost to deporting tens of thousands of children.”

She adds, “Over the years, we have yet to find any category of immigrant the CIS says it wants in the United States.”

IPC says, “CIS frequently laments that so many immigrants to the United States have low levels of education, yet opposes a measure that would allow some of these immigrants to become more educated. What alternative to the DREAM Act does CIS propose? According to the Center for American Progress the cost to deport more than two million children and young adults who were raised in the United States would be $48.6 billion. How is that sound fiscal policy?”

The report, the IPC said, “paints a misleading financial portrait of the DREAM Act…claims that the bill would be a burden on U.S. taxpayers and would ‘crowd out’ native-born students in the classroom.

IPS charges that available evidence does not support either of these dire predictions. In fact:

“Institutions of higher education overwhelmingly support the DREAM Act, which would likely increase school revenues as students who would not normally attend college start to pay tuition.”

“The 10 states which, since 2001, have passed laws allowing undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition have not experienced a large influx of new immigrant students that displaces native-born students.”

Most DREAM Act students, IPC says, would likely enroll in community colleges, most of which have open enrollment, based on a philosophy that all qualified students should have the opportunity to learn. Historically, more than 80% of community college students hold full or part-time jobs, thus contributing to their own educations (and the tax base) even as they attend school. The American Association of Community Colleges estimates that state and local governments receive a 16% return on every dollar they invest in community colleges due to the increased earnings of college graduates.

IPC continues: “Legalizing DREAM Act students would increase beneficiaries' earnings potential, as well as the U.S. tax base. A 2010 study by the UCLA North American Integration and Development Center estimates that the total earnings of DREAM Act beneficiaries over the course of their working lives would be between $1.4 trillion and $3.6 trillion.”

The IPC says, “The U.S. economy doesn't need more deportations; it needs more college graduates.” It cites a recent report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, saying, "Not enough Americans are completing college... by 2018, we will need 22 million new college degrees-but will fall short of that number by at least 3 million postsecondary degrees, Associate's or better." The DREAM Act would help meet this need, the group said.

The IPC, established in 2003, is the policy arm of the American Immigration Council. The CIS was founded in 1985. Its executive director is Mark Krekorian. Krekorian is well-known for statements such as, “Although mass immigration once served our national interests, in today's America it weakens our common national identity, limits opportunities for upward mobility, threatens our security and sovereignty, strains resources for social programs, and disrupts middle-class norms of behavior."