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DREAM Act Distortions

Recent wrangling over the DREAM Act in the Senate has revealed some ugly realities about today's immigration debate. Introduced this week by Sens. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), the latest iteration of the bill creates a path to legalization for immigrants who came to this country before the age of 16, provided they go to college or serve in the armed forces for at least two years.

Top Senate Republicans -- some of whom are past supporters of the bill -- haven't taken positions on the bill, while others rely on tried and not-so-true arguments to oppose it. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) explained to Politico: "We should not during this lame-duck session try to ram through this controversial legislation that is contrary to what the American people want." Actually, many Americans, from DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust, support the DREAM Act. The bill also got an endorsement from the notoriously conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board. And a November 23 Gallup poll finds that 60 percent of survey respondents felt it was important that Congress pass the DREAM Act before the year's end.

Despite evidence that shows the DREAM Act will strengthen our economy and its workforce, opponents of the measure continue to cloud the debate with far-fetched assertions that are easily discredited by immigration experts. It's pretty clear that on immigration, many lawmakers simply aren't interested in the truth. Nor are they interested in passing legislation that accomplishes anything other than tougher immigration enforcement.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) issued a "Critical Immigration Alert" filled with inaccuracies that were refuted, point-by point, in a detailedMedia Matters report. For example, Sessions claims that the bill "will be funded on the backs of hard working, law-abiding Americans." Not true, according to cost estimates released by the Congressional Budget Office: passing the DREAM Act would reduce federal deficits by about $1.4 billion over the next ten years.

More importantly, DREAM Act beneficiaries are the hard-working, law-abiding Americans that Sessions professes such concern for. The students affected by this legislation grew up in the United States, went to our schools and have adopted our values and traditions. Only legal status keeps them from further investing in their education, getting better jobs and contributing more fully to our economy.

Not only would this legislation expand economic opportunities for immigrants, but we argue that it would also help strengthen and expand the American middle class. Legalizing one group of young workers would help level the playing field for all workers, and help protect American workers from unfair competition that stems from labor exploitation endemic to the underground economy.

The DREAM Act won't move forward if conservatives continue to toe the party line on this issue. In the coming days, let's hope that enough of our elected officials demonstrate that they are ready to turn their backs on partisan politics and move forward on a no-brainer immigration reform.

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Posted at 3:31 PM, Dec 03, 2010 in Immigration
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