This week's filibuster of debate on the defense bill was another gift from the "Party of No."
Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she voted against it because it was not going to give the Republicans enough opportunity to make amendments to the bill. This was just blowing smoke, as she knows full well that the amendments that the Republican senators would propose would not pass the Democrat-controlled Senate. Any real bipartisan legislation would have been attached in the committee process. Collins was just trying to score points with her leadership and to give her party something to rail about in the upcoming elections.
Two big provisions were in the defense bill: "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which would repeal the law against gay men and lesbians serving openly in the armed forces, and the "DREAM Act," which is an acronym for the "Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act." This legislation is truly bipartisan and is sponsored by Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Richard Durbin, D-Ill. Its provisions not only help children who have grown up in the United States, but they also help America.
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Basically, the DREAM Act works like this: Young people who have been living in the United States for most or even all of their lives would get the opportunity to obtain documentation and to be able to enroll in college and the military. The DREAM Act portal says that there are approximately 65,000 young people who do not get the opportunity to test their dreams and are smeared with an inherited title of "illegal immigrant." The portal continues saying, "These youths have lived in the United States for most of their lives and want nothing more than to be recognized for what they are, Americans."
Basically, the DREAM Act is a clever way to make sure that America has well-trained labor and military forces. It provides for young people who have graduated high school, attended college and obtained at least a two-year college degree to have a conditional path to citizenship. It also allows for this path with two years of military service. Undocumented students had to have been in the United States by the age of 16. They cannot qualify for federal assistance or Pell Grants, although states can provide college assistance if they choose to.
We live in a competitive world, and our education system is not what it used to be. We still have a huge high-school dropout rate, and our military is constantly searching for young men and women who are smart and competent. Federal and state governments are constantly searching for ways to decrease high-school dropout rates and increase college attendance. This "carrot" to undocumented youth is one way to make sure we have a more educated workforce. Why shouldn't we do everything we can to increase our competitive advantage?
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Many of these undocumented youths have spent most of their lives watching the same television programs and eating at the same McDonald's as their citizen peers. Most have no connection with their parent's country of origin. Despite anti-immigration groups like FAIR wanting to send these young people back to Mexico and other countries south of the U.S. border, they would be as lost as you and I would be if we were suddenly transported to Mexico. FAIR thinks it would reward parents who violated immigration laws and provide an incentive for more illegal immigration. It thinks it would put strains on state budgets and harm middle-class families. Last time I looked, filling up our colleges with students who graduate and get a degree was good for America, as long as the students stay in America. Many of the science graduate-degree recipients leave after their degrees, providing strength to their home countries and not to the U.S.
The DREAM Act needs to be part of legislation that has a good chance of passage because most members of Congress are too lily-livered to stand up in their districts and explain that the DREAM Act is actually better for America than it is for undocumented youths. The anti-immigration fever that is being stirred up hurts our country. If a young person is willing to go to college without a Pell Grant and is willing to get a two-year degree, it can only strengthen our nation.
Last week, students held demonstrations to support the DREAM Act, and mock funerals have been held to emphasize the dreams of young students who actually want to study and participate in keeping America great. How can we not support those dreams?