Dream Act could fulfill the dreams of students across the nation
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…”
Thus, began the inscription at the base of the Statue of Liberty.
One day, about 12 years ago, a Hispanic student at the college I was teaching came to me and told me that he was being deported. He asked whether I could testify for him in his deportation hearing.
So, I found myself on a cold winter day sitting a courtroom, waiting to tell the court that my friend was a talented person with a great deal of potential, who at the same time was supporting his mother and other siblings. He was not only a role model for his community but an asset to our nation.
Two months later, he came to tell me that he won his case and that my testimony was an important factor. I was very happy for him, but this was a consciousness moment for me that began my journey with the Hispanic community.
Delaware Senate Bill 169 – otherwise known as the Dream Act, allowing for instate tuition at our state universities and colleges for qualified youths – is now apparently stuck in the Senate Education Committee. The sponsors of this bill, Sens. Marshall and Miro, have indeed performed a valuable public service introducing this controversial piece of legislation. That it was introduced in an election year should not be a bar to its final passage.
Opponents argue that these instate tuition benefits are already available. However, in the case of the University of Delaware, which opposes the Dream Act, these benefits depend upon private donations, and those donations could dry up. DelTech could revoke its own policy next year. Delaware State University does not offer any benefits to undocumented youths. The Dream Act benefits are too important to rest on policies that could change at the drop of a hat.
Opponents also argue that the proposed law would violate a federal immigration law passed in 1996. Though, since 2000, 12 states, including Texas, have already passed similar state Dream Acts and decided that the federal law does not apply.
In 2010, the California Supreme Court sustained their state Dream Act that granted in-state tuition benefits to undocumented immigrants. While Congress had prohibited states from granting post-secondary education benefits to undocumented students unless the same benefit is given to all U.S.-citizen students without regard to residence, the court held that its law was not a residence requirement and thereby was not preempted by federal law. Thus, their argument falls that, ipso facto, it violates federal law.
Offering these benefits to Hispanic youths does not condone illegal behavior, because almost all have been brought into the country by their parents. Should children and young adults suffer because of their parent’s behavior? Some have lived in the U.S. for so long that they don’t even know the native language of their country of origin. Except for a piece of paper, these people are Americans.
These youths have had no choice in the matter and are forced to “live in the shadows,” as it were. The Dream Act would give hope to those who might feel hopeless. That is why it is called the Dream Act. For the Hispanic community, college-educated youth will give them leaders and role models. For Delaware and the nation, college-educated youth will give us higher-paying jobs, higher productivity and more tax revenue, with lower social costs. It’s a win-win situation for Delaware.
Perry J. Mitchell is a retired political science professor living in Ocean View. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.