The North American Integration and Development Center at UCLA has released a new report highlighting the economic benefits of enacting the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. The report, entitled “No DREAMers Left Behind: The Economic Potential of DREAM Act Beneficiaries” states:
Passage of the DREAM Act is not only a question of individual fulfillment; it is a practical step toward realizing a return on the U.S. public education system’s investment in immigrant youths. DREAMers make up a highly-educated and potentially high-income earning group that can contribute billions of dollars to the U.S. economy across diverse industries. The DREAM Act offers a moral solution to the trap of being a young, motivated, undocumented immigrant in the U.S. It is also an economically sensible piece of legislation that advances the interests of U.S. society as a whole.
More specifically, the report concludes, “In the No DREAMers Left Behind scenario, 2.1 million undocumented immigrants would become legalized and generate approximately $3.6 trillion” over a 40-year period. Another positive effect of the DREAM Act would be that “[a] higher supply of skilled students would also advance the U.S. global competitive position in science, technology, medicine, education and many other endeavors.”
These findings are especially significant given the nation’s falling level of educational attainment. As Wonk Room economics blogger Pat Garofalo notes, “By 2025, according to estimates by the Lumina Foundation, our nation will be short 16 million college-educated workers. This will have real consequences for both the economy as a whole and for individual workers.”
In the past, the College Board has indirectly supported the report’s conclusions, stating, “In strictly economic terms, the contributions that DREAM Act students would make over their lifetimes would dwarf the small additional investment in their education beyond high school, and the intangible benefits of legalizing and educating these students would be significant.”
The reasoning behind the report’s findings is pretty straightforward. The DREAM Act provides young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. through no fault of their own with the opportunity to get on a path to legalization by attaining a college education or serving in the military. As a result, those who qualify for the DREAM Act will also have access to better economic opportunities than they would if they were working without a visa in the shadows of the economy.
Even former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AK) agrees with that logic, saying, “the economy will be better when that [undocumented] kid is able to fully realize his potential and break the pattern of his parent’s illegal activity.” Polls show that 70 percent of Americans support the DREAM Act.
Yesterday, after a meeting between the President and Latino congressional leaders, the White House issued a press release stating, “The President and the CHC [Congressional Hispanic Caucus] leaders believe that, before adjourning, Congress should approve the DREAM Act.” The question is whether Rupublicans will join or obstruct the effort to allow undocumented students to improve their lives and the U.S. economy.
Andrea Christina Nill