- Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 January 2014 00:30
- Published on Wednesday, 08 January 2014 00:30
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It’s called the Dream Act. At 700 pages it’s arguably too wordy and too complicated, but it’s the first major bill to address the issue of nearly 11 million individuals who are here in the United States without proper documentation. And, before anybody says it, yes, I know, that means they’re illegal. The Senate passed the bill in 2013, with strong bi-partisan support, but it faces heavy going in the House. It may never come to the floor. The Tea Party faction in the House, which is strongly anti-immigrant, is adamantly opposed to it, but even if the bill doesn’t pass it’s a problem can’t be ignored forever.
The Dream Act, which would provide a path to legal residence is not an easy ride. There are numerous requirements to achieving residency status to include the payment of back taxes, if owed (many already pay taxes in one form or another) having a clean record and getting squared away with the Immigration and Naturalization Service. It’s no give away, it requires the patience of a saint, but at least it provides a legal mechanism to do something with nearly 11 million immigrants, mostly Hispanic, who live outside the law. It’s not a perfect solution, some would argue it rewards illegal behavior, but in terms of being practical, it’s a reasonable approach. Also, it represents one thing many people forget and that’s that we really are better off with more immigrants.
Thanks to a large immigrant population, the youngest group being Hispanic, America has one of the most youthful populations in the developed world. This means a lot to a nation’s success. Nation’s with older populations, Russia and Japan come to mind, face some serious economic and demographic challenges. However, in America, immigration has been an anti-aging tonic that’s served us well for over two hundred years. As for those whose pre-conceived notions and prejudices get in the way of their support for the Dream Act there are some other considerations. Hispanics have the highest labor participation rate of any group in America. This means they are more likely to be employed than anyone else. They are also more likely to join the armed forces than any other minority group and have received more decorations for valor than any other minority group in the service. They take the responsibilities of citizenship seriously.
Almost everyone in America is an immigrant or descended from immigrants. My ancestors came to America looking for a better life. They, like so many others, contributed the American narrative. Namely, that we are a fusion of a wide range of cultures that keeps us vital and dynamic.
Many who oppose the Dream Act consider it a giveaway. But, that’s not the case. The immigrants it would make legal already pay over $10 billion in taxes. Perhaps, with that in mind, maybe we should think of the Dream Act as something that doesn’t just benefit one group, but rather represents legislation, that if passed, will be in the best interest of America as a whole.