What Do We Need? The DREAM Act! When Do We Need It? Now!

By Andrea Pascual
June 30, 2011

On Tuesday, June 23, Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) held the first ever congressional hearing on the DREAM Act. He addressed immigration as “one of the most compelling human rights issues of our time.”

I watched from my computer as he introduced several DREAM students sitting in the room, all of whom were honor roll students with superior academics and had achieved more than one degree, and many who were highly skilled in the sciences. All of these students had worked hard and stayed out of trouble – but because they were once innocent children who followed their parents into the United States, they are now left without options to be successful and contributing members of our society.

All of the students Senator Durbin introduced had received job offers from prestigious businesses and organizations but were forced to decline them because of their status. How unfair is that? However, they do not give up.

Judiciary committee member Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) cited a UCLA study that concluded the DREAM Act would contribute $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy over a 40-year period. The first witness at the hearing, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, stated that the DREAM Act would fill critical shortages of workers. Second witness Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano stated that passing the DREAM Act supports ICE’s enforcement efforts. And finally, Under-Secretary of Defense Clifford Stanley stressed the importance of DREAM students serving their country, making sure to have the best of the best. These committed students continue to fight for their rights and for support for this common sense bill that makes sense to everyone except certain members of Congress who continue to push for enforcement-only legislation.

As the Senate momentum for DREAM builds this summer, members of the House will be voting on the Defense Appropriations bill, which includes an amendment to mandate and fund an enforcement program known as E-Verify. The verification system allows employers to check the legal status of their employees. The program is currently voluntary and used by over 250,000 employers. However, there is still a significant error rate in the screening of potential employees. A report by the Government Accountability Office found that if the program were to be mandatory it is estimated that over 3 million employees lawfully in the United States would be at risk of losing their jobs because of incorrect identification. The report also says there is no meaningful and transparent way for workers to correct inaccuracies; and 54 percent of undocumented workers are not even detected by the system.

We must not allow this harmful program to pass. NETWORK urges Congress to oppose expansion of the E-verify program and focus on positive steps toward reforming our immigration system, which includes supporting the DREAM Act.

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