Rubio proposal offers way toward Dream Act
BY CHERYL LITTLE
Florida’s U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has the right idea. Dream Act youth should be granted legal status. Sen. Rubio’s proposal would offer Dreamers a nonimmigrant visa that could be renewed indefinitely. It wouldn’t lead to U.S. residency or citizenship, but would legalize their legal status.
Here’s even better news: The type of limited status he envisions doesn’t have to be passed by Congress and signed into law by the president. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) already has the discretionary power to grant potential Dreamers temporary legal status that can be renewed and allows them to work and drive legally.
I know this because Americans for Immigrant Justice successfully has helped numerous Dreamers petition DHS to release them from detention and for relief from deportation. Typically, DHS only grants relief to those with final removal orders or in deportation proceedings. The Dreamers get temporary status, which allows them to apply for a work permit and driver’s license. The status may be renewed but does not provide a path for permanent legal status.
Juan Gomez, a longtime AI Justice client from Miami-Dade County, is among the Dreamers who lead productive lives thanks to the provisional legal status granted by DHS. Gomez graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University last year and now works at JPMorgan Chase in New York City.
Such provisional status can serve as a bridge to the future. Someday, Congress could approve the pending DREAM Act (S.952). This bill would allow immigrant youth who attend college or serve in the U.S. military to earn their legal status and ultimately become citizens.
Until that day arrives, DHS should create a program allowing Dream Act youth to apply for provisional status on a case by case basis. This would allow immigrant youth to pursue their dreams and contribute considerable talents to the country they love and consider home. The U.S. military, for example, would be thrilled to tap a new pool of Hispanic recruits who are more likely to enlist than other populations. Economic benefits would also be significant.
If enacted, the DREAM Act would cut the federal deficit by $1.4 billion and increase government revenues by $2.3 billion over a decade, according to 2010 Congressional Budget Office estimates. A 2010 study by UCLA’s North American Integration and Development Center estimated that DREAM Act beneficiaries collectively would earn between $1.4 trillion and $3.6 trillion in earnings during their lifetimes — while paying a significant share of federal tax contributions.
Clearly, provisional status granted by DHS would not be the whole enchilada for Dreamers or the country. But it is a practical solution until Dreamers are afforded a path to legalization that leads to citizenship, full assimilation, equal protection under law and the ability to maximize their potential contributions to this country.
At a time of increasing demand for highly skilled “knowledge workers” in a global economy, the legalization of bicultural and multilingual youth would pay enormous dividends. Every day that another young Dreamer sits in detention costs taxpayers’ money. Every Dreamer who cannot find a way to attend college is a loss of U.S. investment in their public school education. Every Dreamer deported deprives us of their potential contributions to U.S. society.
Latinos in Florida and nationwide overwhelmingly support the DREAM Act and other sensible reforms of the nation’s broken immigration system. Like other immigrant waves in U.S. history, Latinos now bear the brunt of toxic xenophobia. They are disappointed by the lack of concrete action by Congress and the administration. It is time for DHS to do the right thing: use its discretionary power to grant deserving Dreamers legal status and restore faith in the land of justice and opportunity.
Cheryl Little is executive director of Americans for Immigrant Justice (formerly Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center).
Link to .pdf version of this article http://www.aijustice.org/docs/rubio-proposal-offers-way-toward-DREAM-act.pdf