As young Americans, we have dreams of one daygoing to college and furthering our education not only to better ourselves, but also to improve our country. We reside in America, land of the free and home of the brave. So why are some people being denied the right to their own dreams? Over three million students complete their high school careers each year in the U.S. However, a small group of approximately 65,000 students who graduate that same year don’t get the same chance to live out their dreams of continuing their education.
The DREAM Act is a bipartisan legislation drafted by both Republicans and Democrats. It was created in hopes of giving young students who grew up in the United States the same opportunity to serve in the U.S. military or pursue a higher education. Because these students aren’t legal citizens, they aren’t provided the same chance to enlist in the military or enroll in college courses.
These are the same students, however, that just a year ago were sitting in physics class or scoring the goal that would won the soccer team the title of state champions. They are the same as you and I, they breathe the same air, speak the same language, and dream the same dreams. That’s what this act is supposed to support. It gives everyone who falls in this category a chance to prove themselves and give back to the country.
Eligibility for the benefits provided by this Act are put into place to prevent criminals and people coming into the country under the assumption they can just automatically become citizens to a minimum. All DREAM Act beneficiaries must fall in these specific guidelines; must not have entered the country on a non-immigrant visa, have proof of arrival before the age of 16, have proof of residency for five consecutive years after said arrival, have graduated from an American High School, received a GED, or been accepted to a school of higher education, and be of good moral character.
In 2012, President Obama was attacked by the media stating that he “enacted the DREAM Act in 2012 even though the legislation had not passed Congress” when in fact he did not enact the DREAM Act. He put into motion a different program for undocumented youth that was only a temporary measure that does not allow legal residency or start a path for citizenship like the DREAM Act does. The DACA program exempts all eligible undocumented immigrants under the age of 31 from deportation on a two-year extended period. During this two-year period, immigrants who are eligible can apply for work permits and Social Security cards, but this program does not give them permanent legal residency.
Known as Dreamers, the undocumented students that this program is set out to benefit have relentlessly rallied and protested for the passing of the DREAM Act so they can live in peace knowing that they have the same opportunities as their fellow classmates. For them, the Act is more than just starting on the path to legal residency, it’s a catalyst for hope that they will lead good lives and become strong figures in America. This Act is everything to them because it tells them that they do matter and that they can do great things regardless of what anyone says to them about their legal status.
Our country is proof that freedom exists and that it is tangible. By passing this Act and allowing our friends and teammates to get a chance at the life we were luckily born into is not just something special for them, but us as well. Americans should take pride in the fact that these students are striving to find better lives in our country. We built this country on newfound freedom and hopes of starting over, so the fact that we are giving these young people the chance to live freely and build a life for themselves should be enough of a reason to pass this undeniably beneficial Act.
On November 20th, 2014, President Obama addressed the nation about this topic. In a fifteen minute speech, he hit on the otherwise untouched immigration problems America has been having. He highlighted a new plan that makes it harder for those now trying to enter the country illegally, and somewhat easier for those who have integrated into our communities and started new lives with children and better jobs to stay here legally.
I believe wholeheartedly that citizenship isn’t something that should just be handed out, it is earned through hard work and a lot of dedication. But this isn’t a free hand out, it most definitely comes with a price. According to Obama, “All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America, and undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows or risk their families being torn apart.” Obama is saying what everyone has ever thought about undocumented immigrants, and it’s true. Why should they get the same benefits as us without paying the price?
Under this Act, and many others Democratic leaders would like to pass, with the road to citizenship comes a very crucial step. In order to become legal residents, they have to pay taxes just as we do. The only difference is that they are risking everything they gave up to give their children better lives in America. If they come out of the shadows, their entire family could be torn apart. And that is something we as Americans can’t really understand. We have never had our parents taken away from us because they were trying to giveus better lives because all we have ever known is freedom. Born in America means born into freedom.