An Exploration of America’s Most Hot Button Issue
By Gabriel Davila
One of the most controversial topics, immigration, arose in political campaigns this year and the Dream Act is no doubt one of the most debated policies which Democrats and Republicans cannot seem to agree on.
The Dream Act, which would allow undocumented immigrants to attend college and apply for financial aid, was rejected from last year’s state budget due to a disagreement between Democrats and Republicans.
Despite this setback, the New York Times reported that Governor Andrew Cuomo would continue his push for the Dream Act.
The Dream Act, supporters claim, can elevate enrollment rates for universities and promote immigrants to invest in the state economy after they receive higher paid jobs with their respective degrees through opening bank accounts, purchasing homes and starting their own businesses.
Undocumented immigrants who decide to attend college increases the amount of revenue their schools receive, which helps colleges provide more services and better equipment for classes.
The Washington Post reported that Washington state passed a version of the Dream Act in 2014, providing $5 million to the State Need Grant Program, which covers tuition aid for 1,100 at state universities.
A policy passed Congress on June 15, 2012 called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
If immigrants meet the qualifications for DACA, they can apply and, after acceptance, can work and attend college.
The passage of the Dream Act is still necessary because DACA is not a guarantee for citizenship and can be revoked at any time.
Undocumented immigrants can also apply for financial aid and the Tuition Assistance Program.
CSI Sophomore Maria Vazquez is one particular student who applied for DACA during her senior year of high school and currently works part time.
“It’s not the fault of children that were brought here because our parents wanted a better life for us,” she said. “We want to study and go far in our lives. That’s why I jumped on the wagon when I got the opportunity to get DACA.”
According to the Pew Research Center, 750,000 people in New York are illegal immigrants, that’s about four percent of the state population.
Illegal immigrants also contributed over $1 billion in state and local taxes unpaid and, if given legal residence in the state, would pay over $1.3 billion in state and local taxes, including $622.8 million in sales taxes, $345.8 million in personal income taxes, and $375.8 million in property taxes, the American Immigration Council wrote on ImmigrationPolicy.org.
Senior Researcher at the American Immigration Council, Walter Ewing, said “It (The Dream Act) would resolve the legal status of millions of unauthorized young people in a way that is consistent with core American values.
And it would empower these young people to become better-educated, higher-earning workers and taxpayers.”
Advocates of the Dream Act continue their fight for undocumented immigrants while the opposition maintain their position on why the act should not be passed.
“Like most New Yorkers, he doesn’t believe taxpayers should cover the cost of free college tuition for illegal immigrants while hardworking, middle-class families here legally take out student loans that will take them years to repay,” a spokesman for Senate majority leader Dean G. Skelos, Scott Reif, said to the New York Times.
Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies, Mark Krikorian, further expressed the reasoning behind why the Dream Act cannot be passed and offers points on how to improve it.
“Rather than limiting amnesty to those brought here as infants and toddlers, it applies to illegal immigrants who arrived before their 16th birthday,” Krikorian said. “If the argument is that their very identity was formed here, age 7 would be a more sensible cutoff.
“That is recognized as a turning point in a child’s psychological development. Such a lower-age cutoff, combined with a requirement of at least 10 years’ residence here, would make a hypothetical DREAM Act 2.0 much more defensible,” he continued.