Harvard sophomore, Eric Balderas, knows why the DREAM Act is important to so many. Earlier this month, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) picked up Balderas in Boston on his way to visit his mother in San Antonio, Texas. Balderas now faces the possibility of deportation at a hearing next month. The 19-year-old biology major was valedictorian of his high school class and is on a full scholarship at Harvard. Sadly, Balderas is just one of roughly 1.5 million unauthorized immigrant children—many of whom don’t speak Spanish and consider themselves American—currently living in the U.S. who are at risk for deportation. How many of America’s talented youth must the U.S. deport before Congress musters the courage to act?
If passed, the DREAM Act would allow qualified young people—who were brought to the U.S. without documentation—to adjust their status to “conditional permanent resident” given he/she meets the requirements. Balderas, who came to the U.S. illegally when he was four, is a perfect candidate for the DREAM Act—he entered the U.S. before the age of 16, earned a high school diploma, is a person of good moral character and has no criminal record.
Eric’s case prompted Harvard President, Drew Faust, to issue this statement:
[The DREAM Act provides] a lifeline to these students who are already working hard in our middle and high schools and living in our communities by granting them the temporary legal status that would allow them to pursue postsecondary education.
In the first years of enactment, the DREAM Act would help approximately 360,000 qualified high-school graduates to receive conditional residency. Over the next 13 years, the bill would also provide incentives for another 715,000 youngsters (an average of 55,000 a year) currently between the ages of 5 and 17 to finish high school and pursue post-secondary education.
According to Harvard’s vice president of public affairs and communications, Christine Heenan:
Eric Balderas has already demonstrated the discipline and work ethic required for rigorous university work, and has, like so many of our undergraduates, expressed an interest in making a difference in the world.
These dedicated young people are vital to our nation’s future, and President Faust’s support of the DREAM Act reflects Harvard’s commitment to access and opportunity for students like Eric.
To date, the DREAM Act has 38 cosponsors in the Senate and 123 in the House, with bipartisan support in both. Sponsorship of the bill, however, does not guarantee its movement or passage. (Recall that the DREAM Act failed in a cloture vote in 2007.) Although a group of undocumented college students—along with Senators Durbin (D-IL) and Lugar (R-IN)—have urged the White House and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to halt the deportation of eligible DREAM Act students in the absence of a larger immigration overhaul, their efforts seem to have fallen on deaf ears. The question, however, remains—why would the U.S. want to deport talented students, educated in the U.S., who are clearly economic and social assets to this country?