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Ken Plum: Time to act on the DREAM

Congress needs to act on the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, as soon as it reconvenes after the elections. The Act which was first introduced in 2001 would provide a path to citizenship for people brought to this country at a very young age.

The proposed legislation has had broad bipartisan support including that of President George W. Bush. In 2010 the bill passed the House of Representatives and came within five votes of passing the Senate. Most of the arguments supporting the legislation in the past have been from legal, moral, and ethical perspectives. The Center for American Progress and the Partnership for a New American Economy released a study last week that makes the case for passage of the Act from an economic basis.

The new study, “The Economic Benefits of Passing the DREAM Act,” makes the case that the DREAM Act would help the American economy to the tune of a total of $329 billion by 2030. The results to the economy would come from granting legal immigration status to 2.1 million young people and incentivizing higher education and broadening job opportunities for them. The spending ripples through the economy would create 1.4 million new jobs.

President Obama through an executive order in June took some action to defer deportation for undocumented youth and to authorize work. This was a critical interim step, but it does not provide a path to citizenship as the DREAM Act does. Under the proposed Act, a person would be eligible for citizenship if they came to the United States at age 15 or younger, are currently age 35 or younger, have been present in this country for at least five years, have completed high school, and have completed at least two years of higher education or honorably served in the armed forces for at least two years. After receiving conditional legal status to complete these requirements, these persons could apply for a green card signifying permanent legal status and eventually citizenship.

The persons impacted by the Act would have been brought to this country while they were young. They have been attending public schools where many have excelled. A path to citizenship should not be denied them. But for those who are influenced by dollar and cents arguments, the new study results are most persuasive. The direct impact on the economy for 2010 to 2030 with passage of the DREAM Act would be $148 billion; the induced impact would be $181 billion for a total impact of $329 billion. Additional state and federal income taxes of $5.6 billion and federal business tax revenue of $4.6 billion would be collected.

Encourage your Congressman to vote for the DREAM Act. For more information on the study go to www.americanprogress.org.

Ken Plum is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.


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