Before 20th century, immigration to the US was not strongly restricted. However, since more and more foreign people are trying to enter the country, the legislation regarding immigration is becoming more and more selective. Although immigration laws allow to filter a large part of individuals willing to enter the country, a reverse side of such severe legislation is the increase of illegal immigration. Legal immigrants have almost the same rights as US citizens, have own social card and are subject to social security protection as well as unemployment benefits (Bruno, p. 13). Legal immigrants can access almost any job in the US and in general their life level is comparable to that of US citizens. However, to become a legal immigrant, it is necessary to go through a multi-step application process and get a Green Card.
Illegal immigrants are not protected by the state as it is for legal immigrants; they often cannot be hired to qualified jobs since they do not have proper documents, illegals do not get access to all educational services and in general have less possibilities compared to US citizens and legal immigrants. For illegal immigrants, it is also possible to apply for the permanent resident status after there is a visa number available (Bruno, p. 15). The purpose of this paper is to consider the passage of the DREAM act on both legal and illegal immigrants.
Impact of the DREAM Act
The proposal of the DREAM Act, denoted as Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, was initially done in 2001, and was reintroduced in 2009. However, in 2010 this Act was blocked by a Senate filibuster(Bruno, p. 17). The proposal suggests to grant the status of permanent residents to deportable/illegal alien (minor) students of US high schools, who arrived as illegal immigrants to the US and have stayed in the country for a minimum of 5 years (Segal and Gerdes and Steiner, p. 315). There are a lot of conditions for getting the status of a permanent resident, the main of them being “good moral character”(Congress (U.S.), p. 18950), 2 years in US military or 2 years in a higher educational institution, age between 12-29 etc (Congress (U.S.), p. 18951).
The DREAM Act is likely to have strong economical and social effect. First of all, the target group – children who entered the country without consent – will not be “punished” for the actions of their parents or other people. This Act allows to reach better social justice and to reduce the number of low-skilled workers partially excluded from the society. The DREAM Act in the long-term perspective will create economic benefits (Segal and Gerdes and Steiner, p. 318): more legal workforce, as a result increased incomes and taxes, smaller college dropout rates etc. Most importantly, the DREAM Act stimulates immigrants to have good morale and achievements, thus adding a new class of socially responsible citizens.
The DREAM Act does not have any effect on legal immigrants, since it only provides legalization opportunities for illegally immigrated minors. However, illegal immigrants with similar conditions might feel deprived and thus have less motivation to legalize. Moreover, the DREAM Act allows illegal minor students to get legal status faster compared to other categories of illegal immigrants. This injustice might cause social problems and dissatisfaction.
In addition to this, colleges will have to allocate more resources because the number of applications will increase, and it is likely that dropout rates might be still high due to high costs of education (Segal and Gerdes and Steiner, p. 319). While no regulation is proposed in the Act with regard to costs, it is likely to increase financial pressure on education structures with giving almost no difference in education for the target audience. Thus, although the very idea of the DREAM Act is reasonable, it should take into account many factors affected by the Act.
The passage of the DREAM Act is rather a controversial issue. This Act would naturally give the change of legalization to those immigrants who came to the US in their childhood, and might not realize they are violating the law. The conditions for gaining legal status mentioned in the Act reward only those individuals who show purposefulness and character, and prove that they will contribute to the society. Legal immigrants will not be affected, and the number of illegals could be significantly decreased.
On the other hand, illegal immigrants who currently applied for permanent resident status and do not fall under the conditions of the DREAM Act will feel significantly discriminated, especially those who do not match age requirements or entered the country when they were older than 15. The wave of protest among such people might negatively impact the society, and the number of legal applications outside the DREAM Act might significantly decrease. Thus, either a similar procedure of legalization (most likely, with focus on the character and personal characteristics on an individual) should be introduced together with the Act, in order to balance social needs. Also, the short-term costs of the DREAM Act are likely to be ahead of benefits, and it is necessary to address funding issues in the legislation in order to make it effective.
Bruno, A. Unauthorized Aliens in the United States. DIANE Publishing, 2010.
Congress (U.S.). Congressional Record, V. 152, Pt. 14. Government Printing Office, 2010.
Segal, E.A., K.E. Gerdes and Sue Steiner. An Introduction to the Profession of Social Work: Becoming a Change Agent. Cengage Learning, 2009.