The DREAM Act: Taking Funding Away from American Children/Students? (By Guest Student Blogger Kristin Saito)

Note: As part of this week’s multi-faceted discussion series on the many perspectives and issues associated with the DREAM Act, immigration and education, we have a post by Kristin Saito from the Enhancing Youth Literacy Capstone.  Kristin volunteered this summer with the Upward Bound Program on the Portland State University campus.  Here is Kristin’s post:

The DREAM Act, which stands for the Development, Relief and Education  for Alien Minors, would provide conditional permanent residency to illegal individuals of good moral character who graduate from high school, arrived in the U.S. as minors, and lived in the country for 5 consecutive years prior to the bill’s enactment (Wikipedia). The DREAM Act insists upon responsibility and accountability for young people before they are able to embark upon the program and face a long, exacting process of over 6 years to complete it before they can apply for citizenship (The Washington Times Community). The DREAM Act would give more than 2 million young immigrants, who were brought to the U.S. before the age of 16, the chance to become legal residents.

The DREAM Act could cost upwards of $20 billion and would cost taxpayers approximately $6.2 billion per year in tuition subsidies. The Center for Immigration Studies says that $6.2 billion is a conservative estimate and does not include the “modest” number of illegal immigrants expected to attend private institutions (Fox News).

President Obama has said that “It’s heartbreaking to see innocent young people denied the right to earn an education, or serve in the military, because of their parents’ actions” and that immigrants are a part of the American family (The Washington Times). President Obama was correct in stating that immigrants are a part of the American family, illegal aliens, however, are not. Illegal aliens have no rights under the United States Constitution and are, therefore, not being denied a right to earn an education.

During this term we have been discussing our public school system and how it has been failing our youth. There have been many suggestions that if more money were allocated to the public school system, the problems would be fixed, or at least have a higher chance of being fixed. The money that is being spent on the illegal immigrants could be spent bettering our own youth. It seems that we need to take a look at our priorities and show that OUR children really are the focus of our legislation.  My question to all of you is, how can one justify spending $20 billion on children that are not citizens of our country when there are so many American students that need help?

Works Cited

Fox News. “DREAM Act Would Cost Taxpayers $6.2 Billion Per Year, Group Says.” December 2, 2010. http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/12/02/dream-act-cost-taxpayers-billion-year-group-says/

The Washington Times Community. “DREAM Acts sparks debate, misinformation, and fear.” July 13, 2011. http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/ad-lib/2011/jul/13/dream-act-sparks-debate-misinformation-and-fear/

The Washington Times. “Obama targets Republicans for blocking DREAM Act”. September 14, 2011. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/sep/14/obama-targets-republicans-blocking-dream-act/

Wikipedia. “DREAM Act.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DREAM_Act

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32 thoughts on “The DREAM Act: Taking Funding Away from American Children/Students? (By Guest Student Blogger Kristin Saito)

  1. Kristin,
    The monetary aspect of this issue is sometimes difficult for me to wrap my head around because I see the word “billion”, let alone “20 billion”, and quite honestly my mind goes blank. I do not think I have the capacity to answer this question on financial grounds. The only point I can make is that the money coming from tuition can only, and has only, benefited the states that enact this bill. Once they become documented citizens, they get the lovely responsibility of paying taxes. However, to answer your question about how we can justify it, I think it requires a moral argument alongside a monetary argument.

    You make a solid point that there is a difference between immigrants and illegal aliens. However, no matter their legal title, most of these students are as American as you and I. We, as Americans, stripped the Native Americans of their land and called this our own. By no means do I mean to give a history lesson but it did happen and it was constitutional simply because we developed the law. Other countries now see America as a land of opportunity. The immigration issue and concerns about illegal aliens do have their place in political debate. However, when Obama states that we shouldn’t punish the children for the mistakes of their parents, that is where I can see justifying this helping hand to those who have nowhere else to go.

    If English is their first language, they attend school here, and they participate in the development of a community then they are as much of a citizen, at heart, as I am. These students want to gain access to not only education but citizenship. Some students don’t even know they are not citizens until they decide to pursue an education. They attempt to pursue the American dream and come to find out they are undocumented. Where do they belong if they thought this was their home all along? Their homeland may be a distant and foreign place to them. An undocumented child wishes to gain the same access to resources as their peers and neighbors. Because we are their peers and neighbors, we can not deny their right to be contributing and educated citizens of the United States. We know that financing education is a battle yet to be won. I just think that these hard working individuals are worth fighting for.

    -Anne

    • Anne, I really feel strongly towards everything you mentioned above. I am an American, but my family (grandparents) are not from America. I connect with what you said about these poor kids who think this is their home, and come to find out, now they are being told they can no longer study here because their parents raised them in America. This becomes their home, and IS their home. I think it’s important to consider that these children are doing everything in their power to be considered Americans, except have to citizenship. They are attempting to be as much of this culture as possible, why can’t education be in the cards for them as well. Basically, I really enjoyed the points you made, and think you place some really good thoughts out there!

    • Anne: very well said. For some reason that $20 billion number doesn’t seem right. It costs about $450-$500 just for the Dream Act application. Then students have 1 year to get approved before it expires and if not, they loose their money.
      Some students are recommended to get an attorney and thats several thousands of dollars more. There is a lot of information left out. What is the revenue the states will be getting? Some illegal immigrants also pay taxes even though they are not legally here. Its a fact. There are some people with the right intention of paying their fair share.
      I personally dislike the word “illegal alien”. It puts people in a different outside category when this nation was created by immigrants for other immigrants.

  2. When I watched the documentary that Kaitlyn mentioned in her blog, I couldn’t help but to feel the same way you do. I felt that those who entered our country illegally, breaking the law, should not be allowed to apply for citizenship. After all, breaking the law makes you a criminal and under the DREAM Act you must be of “good character” to qualify, so by breaking the law you are not of good character, in my opinion.

    However, after listening to a presentation in class today regarding the DREAM Act I have a change of heart. If the DREAM Act passes there will only be a one year application deadline in which individuals can apply. So, only those who have been in the U.S. for five years and have attended high school or received their GED can apply. Not those entering the U.S. illegally as we speak or those entering in the future. This was a fear of the opposing side, as well as one of mine, but I now know that it is not true.

    I feel that the immigrants who would qualify are of good standing, have contributed greatly to our society, and still have more to contribute. They are hard workers, educated, and will make the United States a better place. Why wouldn’t we want our country to be enriched with diversity that will help us grow and achieve great things?

    • Samantha: I think that your openness to learn more about the DREAM Act and to really consider your own position shows a true desire to learn. What was it that ultimately made you change your mind? Do you think that some opponents to the DREAM Act are just underinformed? Or do you feel that there are serious concerns that opponents of the DREAM Act have that are legitimate even if you feel they do not outweigh the benefit of supporting such hard working, educated students through the passage of such a bill?

      • I would also like to know what made you change your mind? Zapoura, I really feel people are underinformed and misinformed. Its a shame, our media and politicians are good at sharing some information and telling the truth or the whole story.

    • Samantha, Wow! I am so excited that one day in a classroom full of fellow students, can cause you to have a change of heart. This is so encouraging, many times it takes people years to see what you have seen in one day. I applaud you! In the words of my sister “YOU GO GIRL”

      Joyce

    • It’s true, if what the opposers of this act think about the actual people that would benefit was actually true, it would be hard to support it. But it simply isn’t the case. These are not bad people, or “illegals” that have taken our jobs and made life for us less rich than it was before. These are children that are separated from us only by a number and a piece of paper which is stopping them from realizing their dreams they have worked their whole lives towards. It doesn’t make any sense to me why people wouldn’t want to better the lives of these kids, and the future of our country at the same time! With all of the evidence for the success and necessity of this act being almost ignored by opposers, what do you think it will take for them to become supporters?

    • Samantha: Thank you for paying attention to my presentation. I really hope you enjoyed it and I hope it gave you a little more information on the facts.

      I personally learned a lot more about this DREAM act that the media wasnt informing us about. I hope you continue to support this great cause.

  3. I guess I’m confused… I don’t see how this could cost taxpayers 6.2 billion a year. As far as I can tell, it’s only for people already living here, so the government would not lose out on any more tax dollars than they already are. It would cost far more to deport all of the people who are eligible for the DREAM Act, while the beneficiaries of the DREAM Act would be paying taxes, so I think, if anything, we will make money off of it- at least in the long run.

    In fact, “according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, if passed as it’s now written, the DREAM Act would ultimately cut the deficit by $1.4 billion and increase government revenues by $2.3 billion over the next 10 years” (“DREAM Act sparks debate, misinformation, and fear”, The Washington Times).

    I’m not sure the group Fox News cites as a source is at all reliable. It just included the costs (although I don’t even think there are tuition subsidies in the Dream act) and it didn’t include the benefits, which outnumber the CIS’s 6.2 billion. And that’s just the financial benefits: the benefits to the human individuals are worth the cost alone.

    • Yes, the Act (and Obama’s recent executive order) apply only to young people who have been living here already for at least five years and who were brought to this country before the age of 14 or 15 (I can’t remember the exact age at this moment for some reason!). This path to citizenship would not apply to anyone coming to the country after the Act was passed (whenever that might be).

    • I felt the same way after our in-class discussion on Friday. Although I understand that there would be some nation-wide paper work and matriculation, in the digital age with pre-existing higher education bureaucracies already set up, and with the DREAM Act likely to impact only a small amount of the population, will it really be this expensive? If so, something seems off to me. If not, why not benefit a few hard-working people and give them a deserved path to citizenry? Also, there is a long-term economic payoff, as well as a community payoff, to sending people to college who want to be there rather than leaving them with less opportunity to better themselves and the U.S. in the few jobs available to an undocumented resident in our country.

      • I agree Bryan. Application cost $450-$500 + Instate Tuition for colleges = $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

        How can that cost the US any money?

    • I agree Jeffery. The possibilities for the future success of our nation based on the education (and eventual citizenship) that these children may or may not receive seem to scream for the necessity of this act. If these kids don’t have access to this, our country will only suffer the consequences of having to support these members of our society somehow.

    • Jeffrey: I am with you on this confusion. $6.2 billion? how could it cost that much when America and school would be making a profit?

      Example: If I were a student who finished high school, got good grades, and had no criminal background why wouldn’t I want to continue onto college? I would pay the instate tuition in cash monthly payments, and if I worked, i would pay taxes too…

      The above makes sense…I dont see a cost to the United States.

  4. I think I am confused also Jeffrey. I thought the Dream Act was supposed to allow in state tuition, but still did not offer financial aid, only loans. If that is the case then it would stimulate the economy by college institutions making more money from tuition paying students. I agree the cost would be higher to deport families. And I believe that there are very serious immigration problems, but if they are able to make it through public school, then college should be an option to be attained.

    • Olivia, from what I understand, each state has the ability to decide whether or not to grant in-state tuition to those impacted by the presidential order (or potentially impacted by the DREAM Act if it is ever passed).

      • Good job professor Zapoura. You are right….The federal government has left it to each state to decide on whether they want to offer instate or out of state tuition.

  5. Universal statements never work well, especially when attempting to categorize an entire race of people as the same. Not all illegal immigrants are hard-working or attempting to become part of United States culturally, most wish to retain their cultural identity without assimilating. Moreover, not all diversity is good or beneficial for the collective, having a room full of medical doctors and then adding a few child predators would bring diversity to the room but it would obvisously not be beneficial. I have family members that came here legally and some that came here illegally, the ones that went through the process to obtain citizenship are hard-workers and bring positive diversity to their community. However, the families that came illegally are dead beats, users, and in some cases criminals. They bring nothing to the community of worth and they constantly want more and more, SNAP funds, affordable housing, etc. They do not work because they do not need too, they send their children to schools wasting resources that should be spent on those who care and are attempting to better their lives.

    I want more LEGAL immigration, regardless of race/ethnicity, and funding students’ education should be a top priority among our legislators and community. Yet, not everyone needs or wants to attend college and if they do there are options to continue their education.

    • William, I think your statement about the different characters of people is valid. Everyone is different. But, it seems as if the dream act is helping those who want to do better and not benefiting those ‘dead beats and users’. There is a portion of the dream act that says once the student receives any residency, they cannot use it to benefit their families. So maybe the child of the dead beat wants to change and not follow in their parents’ footsteps? This could potentially be another tax paying resident who could contribute more to the American society than their parents might be mooching off.

    • William, I agree with you that illegal immigrants abusing the welfare system and making no effort to become legal citizens or positively contribute to their communities do not deserve a free pass- this would be “wasting resources”. However, that is not what I see the DREAM Act as being. The Act stipulates that it offers an opportunity to become a citizen after the person has completed two years of a college program or of military service (exceptions made for those with honorable discharge). The person must also have no criminal record and be of good moral character. Citizenship is offered to those who work for it by the DREAM Act, and I think the paramaters set up are not supportive of a lazy, criminal lifestyle.

    • William, I agree with you on your points. There are those who come to suck the life out of the system and there are those who provide life to this nation.

      This dream act ONLY focus on the “good standing” students. Plus I strongly believe that this is a win-win cause. This is about education. Its is not about making them permanent residents or citizens. That is a whole separate issue.

      I just heard a really good quote from Governon Kitzhaber recently: “Lets not focus on taking over the world right now, lets focus on gaining the trust of our children.”

  6. I don’t think it’s justifiable at all. I believe all children should have a free education. However, when this amount of money is going to be spent on education it needs to go first to children who are citizens. I don’t want to sounds harsh, but I believe that money is needed elsewhere.

    -Kyle A.

    • Well the wording on the “cost” is interesting, my guess at what they are saying is that these students will get discounts for tuition, but I since the in-state tuition adjustment isn’t part of this law, and they aren’t allowed grants–I just don’t where that cost would come from. Especially if the cost is compared to the free education they have already received in the country(why not them follow through with the investment already made in them), and to the cost of deportation/jail(without a hope for a bright future, taking a turn for a dark one.) Furthermore if that $20 billion (if that is a real cost) wasn’t used on this my guess is that there is no way it would be used to “fix public education” anyways.

    • Kyle: I wish education was free for everyone but there is always a cost. I know for sure that the amount stated provided by that media is incorrect. I do agree citizens should be offered free education first but illegal immigrants students are willing to pay to pay for their education if they can get a chance to attend school. Plus, I dont think its fair to make them pay out of state tuition.

  7. Kristin your post is very tout provoking. I find myself torn with the attitude of “Big Business” an how it has effected or infected our thinking away from the common good of all man kind. We should not way the costs and benefits of an undocumented or documented worker aren’t we all human. In 2003 the social security department printed a document entailing the benefit of the undocumented immigrant in the U.S. and the positive impact of their financial contribution into the SSI system. Unfortunately they will never recieve their SSI benefit and they are currently funding SSI recipients today.

    The DREAM Act is a small fraction of dollars that are spent we give isreal over a billion dollars worth of aid each year and no one complains. We are talking about education and lives of your friends and family who have lived here paid taxes of which they do not recieve benefits, while under the fear of deportation into massive povertyin Mexico. We should have empathy for them their situation is one I would not like to find myself in.

    I hope the DREAM Act passes. It is a small way to pay them back for funding our SSI system. My parents are receiving SSI due to the labor of undocumented workers, we all know the system would be bankrupt long ago without their monies.

    We should consider the ramifications of education and only this in making any decision regarding who we choose to educate in our country.

  8. Kristin,

    You make a very good point, about questioning the money spent on illegal immigrants that should be spent on our children and the eduction system. I didn’t really think about that until now. I was originally for the DREAM act, and I suppose I still am in some ways. I feel very torn about what the right answer is. I don’t think illegal immigrants that were brought here by their parents should be punished by not being allowed to attend higher education. A young children has not choice but to follow their parents, nor did they understand that what their parents were doing is illegal and would end up punishing them in the long run. I want to allow these good working students an opportunity to obtain citizenship and a degree, yet I can’t avoid the fact that the children that are born and raised in America are not receiving a good educations. The money spent on allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens and go to school, could potentially help out school system, but would the money actually be spent on our youth? Thats the problem we can cay where the money might be better spends, but we have not control of it actually being spent their.

    Kim Brasseur

  9. While I find you question interesting, Kristen, I feel as though placing an emphasis on “our” children versus the children of illegal immigrants simply reinforces the “us vs. them” mentality, in which immigrants (illegal or not) are seen as the other. Reinforcing this idea is incredibly unproductive and only leads to greater inequality and marginalization of the other-ed groups. I think Anne and Joyce made really great points that many of these children are assimilated into American culture and would identify as American if asked. Many only know America as their home, and are a part of American culture just as much as any of “our” children. Why don’t they deserve an education? Because they were brought here by their parents? As children, they had no agency or choice in immigrating illegally or otherwise.

    I understand that education funding is limited and ideally it would be equitable and every child in the United States could receive a proper K-12 education with no trouble or inequity, but unfortunately that is not the case. Even so, does taking away the opportunities of possible DREAMers because “our” children aren’t receiving a proper education help solve anything? Withholding education from certain groups of people just doesn’t seem fair to me at all.

  10. Hi guys,

    I haven’t read all the comments on here, just some. It’s surprising to me that y’all believe something that was said by Fox News. Come on guys, you’re better than that. I haven’t really done any extensive research on this but I did read the article that Fox News had on this and it seems like they have people in that article claim that the Act is not going to have a financial impact (the Congressional Budgetary Office) and others who claim that it will cost $6.2 billion per year (Center for Immigration Studies). Who cares what those two say. Let’s think it through. How is the Dream Act going to cost that much money? All the Act does is create a path for immigrants towards citizenship/legalization. The Act DOES NOT, (in my understanding, let me know if I’m wrong) make it so that illegal immigrants can now qualify for in-state tuition. From what I understand, the Dream Act will strike down a law (Section 505 of IIRIRA) that most states have interpreted as meaning that illegals can’t qualify for in-state tuition. So even if the Dream Act passes and that law is repealed, it will still be up to the individual states to make laws concerning this matter.

    In my opinion, the Dream Act does not costs us money, it will make money for us (the US). As some of you have stated in class, most of these immigrants have probably been here for most of their lives, have made friends here, and have no intention of going back. The Dream Act requires them to go to school for two years or serve in the military for two years. Those who wouldn’t have otherwise done it, now have incentive to go to school or the military and better themselves. They can learn new skills and get an education. An educated population is good for the country because it means they will get better paying jobs and pay more in taxes. So, in my opinion, the Act will create money for the US instead of wasting money.

  11. With respect to the numbers of $6.2 billion, your 3 cited sources are very conservative sources, all of which are still in favor of abstinence only education (as if it worked). In an effort to prevent my frustration from increasing any further, if the numbers do not come from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), I don’t believe them.

    What I find incredible is that society (conservatives) is willing to let an entire generation of individuals fall through the cracks, and either be deported or become low-wage workers in society. Many of the said ‘aliens,’ which is a term I despise, are brilliant minds, waiting for their opportunity to contribute to our growing economy. Nearly everyone has heard the adage, “we are only as strong as the weakest link;” so why doesn’t this apply to the whole nation? There are still some in society that forget the foundational principles this country was built on, and are very quick to bar and prevent outsiders from contributing to a society that is powered by the majority. The DREAM act is a no brainer. The cost, both ethical and fiscal, of deporting the aforementioned individuals would far out way the projected costs of implementing the DREAM act coming from the conservative propaganda on Fox News. I advocate for all minorities, wether they come here young or old, because they are are here for a reason….to be part of America. If we could only educate the radical right wing conservatives (impossible as it may seem) what it means to be “fair and equal,” the DREAM act wouldn’t have to be legislation, it would be common sense.

  12. I’m only 18 and was born in USA my perents came in iligaly and I own a buisness and pay tax to the USA state I really don’t mind the tax I pay I focus more in me you should do that to your self why bother some one else think about the 500 dollars per alien u call are going to pay that to migrate multiply that by billions and you will solve your 20 billion question

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