The Center for American Progress and the Partnership for a New American Economy released a joint study which found that up to 223,000 of the 2.1 million young illegal immigrants eligible for the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act would have an easier time enrolling, paying for and finishing college, which would lead to the increased economic gains. The report concludes that If illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children were given legal status, their improved access to college and better jobs would add $329 billion and 1.4 million jobs to the nation’s economy over two decades, according to a report set for release today.
“This report proves a fundamental truth about the contributions of immigrants to the American economy: we absolutely need them to continue our economic growth,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement.
The report provides an argument in favor of the DREAM Act, which would grant legal residency to illegal immigrants brought to the country as children and have completed some college or served in the military. When the DREAM Act was first introduced in 2001, it was a bipartisan effort sponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. It has since become more partisan. The House of Representatives passed it in 2010 with minimal GOP support, and it failed in the Senate when only three Republicans voted for it.
President Barack Obama has supported the bill and used his executive authority to give some relief to DREAMers. He created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that does not grant legal residency or U.S. citizenship but gives young illegal immigrants deferred deportations and work permits for two years. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said that he would veto the current version of the DREAM Act if it came before him but that he supports legalizing young illegal immigrants who have served in the military.
In recent years, supporters of the DREAM Act have tried to sell the bill by personalizing the people it would affect. Durbin has told stories on the Senate floor of individual DREAMers, and young illegal immigrants have increasingly “outed” themselves in recent years, revealing their status to draw attention to their situation.
That argument is one that even opponents of the act find persuasive. Steven Camarota, director of researcher at the Center for Immigration Studies, which opposes the DREAM Act, said the moral argument is one that “carries weight with most Americans.” Camarota says he’s confused why supporters would push an economic argument that opens the DREAM Act to criticis. He says it draws attention to how many new, young, college- educated people would be fighting native-born Americans for jobs.
While the economic argument may not be as persuasive as the moral argument for granting relief to those who would qualify for the DREAM Act, there is no doubt that even if the economic argument has some opposition, many of those individuals would still get work regardless. It makes sense to have those individuals be part of the system legally and creating more options by which our economy will be boosted by their participation, since those individuals have been here for so long already. For an election season marred by dialogue on what to do about the economy, every little bit that impacts it in a positive way is something worth considering while this country makes a turnaround from the recession it has felt for way too long.