Roosevelt Institute | Cornell University

Speed Bumps on the Path to Immigration Reform

By Samantha KaplanPublished May 1, 2013

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Due to the huge influx of illegal immigrants into the U.S. in the last decade, immigration policy has become a source of debate among law-makers and citizens across the country. How do we deal with the 11 million undocumented people living within our borders? Is it fair for them to utilize public goods like hospitals and schools without paying taxes? Should these illegal immigrants be given a path to citizenship? The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, known as the DREAM Act, is one of the many proposed solutions to create a path to citizenship for some of these illegal immigrants.
Due to the huge influx of illegal immigrants into the U.S. in the last decade, immigration policy has become a source of debate among law-makers and citizens across the country. How do we deal with the 11 million undocumented people living within our borders? Is it fair for them to utilize public goods like hospitals and schools without paying taxes? Should these illegal immigrants be given a path to citizenship?  The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, known as the DREAM Act, is one of the many proposed solutions to create a path to citizenship for some of these illegal immigrants. 

The DREAM Act would give those illegal immigrants who serve in the military for two years or attend college the opportunity to apply for citizenship. This legislation is designed to improve the lives of these young immigrants and also the well being of the entire country by capitalizing on the talents, skills, and knowledge of these young minds. Many of the potential benefactors of the DREAM Act entered the country illegally with their parents, and some argue that they should not be held responsible for this decision. Furthermore, if these people are willing to contribute to improving our nation, we should allow them the opportunity to do so. The DREAM Act is not a complete amnesty program because the path to citizenship is exclusively limited to minors who join the military or attend college.  Despite repeated re-introductions into the House, the DREAM Act has yet to be passed. However, many individual states have passed their own versions of the DREAM Act.

On August 15th, 2012 President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood arrivals program was introduced as an alternative solution to help minor illegal immigrants. Rather than offering these immigrants citizenship, the DACA would defer these immigrations’ removal action for a certain period of time, in which they could receive employment authorization. These immigrants can apply to extend their deferred action after two years, but the DACA does not offer a path to citizenship to these individuals.  Many supporters of the DREAM Act feel that DACA does not go far enough in promoting immigration reform. Because the act doesn’t offer a path to citizenship, it does not address the problem of a growing illegal immigrant population. DACA could stimulate a huge influx of young illegal immigrants into the country, only furthering friction between residents in immigration hot spots.

President Obama has taken a step in the right direction, but DACA is not comprehensive enough to address the true problems associated with illegal immigration. Although it is opposed by many, these immigrants need to be offered some sort of path to citizenship. By legalizing many of these undocumented immigrants, states will see an increase in revenue from the increase in taxpayers.  Also, these immigrants will begin to investment themselves more in our economy because they can guarantee their future here—thus stimulating GDP. Overall, there is much to be gained by offering immigrants a path to citizenship, and immigration policy is sure to be a contentious topic for years to come.