In just a bit, the DREAM Act (that is, the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act) will hit the Senate floor as an amendment to the defense authorization bill. Given the upcoming midterm elections, which heightens the stakes of every Congressional action, and the inflammatory rhetoric swirling around even undocumented children, it seems almost inevitable this Act will be a fierce fight.
As the battle lines are drawn, though, there are those who are talking sense. On Sunday’s “Meet The Press”, retired four-star general and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a moderate Republican who is widely respected among liberals and conservatives alike, urged his fellow Republicans to “come out” in favor of the DREAM Act.
The DREAM Act, which Care2′s Jessica Pieklo and Nicole Nuss have posted about many times, would provide a path to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States with their parents. The bill would grant them six years of temporary residency, and if they complete two years of college or serve honorably in the military during that time, they will be able to obtain permanent residency.
“We can’t be anti-immigration,” Powell says in his interview, “because immigrants are fueling this country…Our minorities are not getting educated well enough now. Fifty percent of our minority kids are not finishing high school. We’ve got to invest in education. We should use the DREAM Act as one way to do it.” He insists that while there’s nothing wrong with wanting our southern border secure, and making sure immigrants enter the country in a “legal, safe manner,” we must find a way to bring undocumented individuals currently in the country “out of the darkness.” I highly recommend watching the whole thing! It’s short, just under three minutes.
Powell should be commended for his thoughtful stance, particularly when other formerly moderate-on-immigration Republicans like Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham have been moving quickly toward extremely conservative anti-immigration positions. Furthermore, Republicans and Democrats alike should listen to him — this bill, which is far from any kind of blanket amnesty, is important not only for the sake of currently undocumented young people, but for the sake of all of us. If you’re concerned about undocumented immigrants being a drain on public resources? This bill will mandate education and/or military service, setting immigrants up for careers in which they will be able to support themselves and contribute to the economy. Worried immigrants will flood the job market? Documentation will take these young people out of a pool of illegal, “shadow workers” unregulated by the government and undermining wages — and it will allow them to become the small business owners of the future, employing other Americans. Fret about crime? “Good moral character” is a prerequisite of gaining permanent residency, so there’s an incentive for any undocumented youth to keep on the straight and narrow. Do you think those choosing to enter the country illegally shouldn’t ever get amnesty? Well, this bill is restricted to those who were brought to the U.S. as minors, so it really wasn’t their choice.
This moderate bill has the potential to infuse our country with new talent, intelligence, and passion, as young people gain educations, fight for America, and become citizens. With “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and the DREAM Act both on the table today, doesn’t now seem like a good time for a last minute call to your Senators?
Photo of General Colin Powell from Charles Haynes's flickr, under Creative Commons license.