Surrounding the DREAM Act debate are many myths and misrepresentations from anti-immigrant groups. Whenever I come across a discussion with those who argue against the DREAM Act, I cannot help but notice that many of their arguments are based on stereotypes and misrepresentations. The following 8 are common myths about the DREAM Act followed by the truths that debunk the myths.
Myth 1: America cannot afford the DREAM Act
A strong line of argument used against the DREAM Act is due to economic reasons. Opponents argue that at this time when the U.S. economy is at an immense low, America cannot possibly afford the DREAM Act and give economic benefits to DREAMers. But the Congressional Budget Office did their analysis and stated that the DREAM Act, if passed, would reduce the federal deficit by $2.2 billion over the next ten years. Looking beyond ten years, DREAMers are also projected to be able to contribute $3.6 trillion just in taxes over the courses of their lifetimes. If passed, DREAMers could do this through careers as leaders and professionals shaping American society for the better. These latter contributions that DREAMers could make cannot be quantified in a billion or a trillion, yet they are invaluable.
Myth 2: The DREAM Act only affects the Latino community.
A common notion is that the population of undocumented students that could be DREAM beneficiaries is from the Latino community alone. Instead, the DREAM Act encompasses students of all communities including Asian American, Middle Eastern American and European American communities. I personally know of undocumented students who are from the Middle East, Italy, Latin America, Philippines, Japan, China, and South Korea. In fact, in the Korean community alone, 1 out of 7 people are undocumented and in the University of California system, 40% of undocumented students enrolled are Asian American.
Myth 3: The DREAM Act would grant legal status to all the undocumented people in the U.S.
Many opponents think that the DREAM Act will apply to all undocumented immigrants, but in fact the DREAM Act is tailored to the undocumented students who fulfill strict criteria and rules. It does NOT apply to all 12 million undocumented persons currently living in the U.S. It only applies to people who came to the U.S. before the age of 16 and who are under the age of 30 at the time of the enactment of the bill.
Myth 4: The DREAM Act is amnesty; it would reward people who came here illegally.
The DREAM Act is NOT amnesty. Amnesty is defined as an act of forgiveness for post offenses and wrongdoing. This statement does not apply to DREAM Act students. They were born in another country, but now know America as their home.
Myth 5: DREAMers will take advantage of and exploit health care and federal and institutional financial aid while attending college.
Although DREAM Act requires students to attend 2 years of university or community college, DREAMers would not be eligible for federal or institutional financial aid. Under the 10 years of conditional status, DREAM beneficiaries would also not be eligible for health care subsidies.
Myth 6: The DREAM Act would provide incentive for people to come here illegally in the future.
The DREAM Act provides no benefits for immigrants who were not here before its enactment. In order to qualify for the DREAM Act, students must have been living in the U.S. for at least 5 years before the DREAM Act becomes a law. Any new undocumented immigrants who come to the U.S. after its enactment would not qualify under the DREAM Act.
Myth 7: The DREAM Act would punish those immigrants who played by the rules and waited in line to become legal.
Adjustment of the statuses of undocumented students would not affect other immigrant’s ability or timeline to legalize. These students would gladly have waited in line if they were given the chance to legalize their status if there was a path to citizenship for them.
Myth 8: The DREAM Act would create a large-scale “chain migration.”
The last argument against the DREAM Act argues that once the students become legalized, a large-scale chain migration would follow, where students sponsor their parents, uncles, third-cousins, their relatives and “thousands” from their home country. But U.S. immigration law only allows the sponsorship of immediate relatives. The earliest that these students could sponsor their spouses or children would be after 10 years and in order to sponsor their parents or siblings, they would have to wait at least 13 years after gaining legal status.
These are the myths that I came across during my discussions of the DREAM Act with people of differing views. Many are blinded by these myths. During debates, many react argumentatively and repeat what they believe is right. When I am able to debunk their arguments and the myths, more often than not, we are able to have conversation with heated emotions aside. This is the direction we want to go in if we are to make progress. A vote on the DREAM Act is slated to happen in the Senate this Saturday. You can help, and you are now equipped with the facts on your side.