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Arturo Vargas Headshot

Don't Let the Senate Stop the Dream

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It's nearly the zero hour for a vote on legislation vital to our society and one that will help thousands of motivated and accomplished immigrant students continue their education and journey toward becoming full Americans.

It would also strengthen our military by allowing thousands of patriotic young people to serve and defend our country. In these difficult economic times, this bill would reduce deficits by more than $2 billion and increase revenues by $1.7 billion -- according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

Of course, we're talking about the DREAM Act.

There are many myths and falsehoods that need to be dispelled once and for all.

It is not true that the DREAM Act would encourage more undocumented immigration by sending a message that this country does not take its laws seriously. There are, in fact, strict requirements under the legislation and a lengthy path of legalization for some of the nation's best and brightest students. Remember, these young people were brought to this country at a young age through no fault of their own. We've already invested in their education, so let us allow them to continue.

It is not true that the DREAM Act would "reward" undocumented immigrants by giving them in-state tuition in a floundering economy while other students struggle to fund their education. The fact is, the DREAM Act does not change a state's current law regarding in-state tuition eligibility, nor will undocumented residents of a state get benefits not given to U.S. citizen residents. "Dreamers" will attain better-paying jobs, pay more taxes and have more money to spend in the state. Their spending power will help bolster our economy.

Some critics contend that the DREAM Act allows for students to endlessly sponsor their family for a green card. That's not true. The legislation does not change how an individual can petition a family member, which is a rather lengthy process. Besides, it doesn't automatically confer legal permanent status or naturalization on eligible students.

The U.S. House of Representatives made great strides last week in passing it. They understood the importance, as does a broad and bipartisan coalition that includes the military, business, labor, and faith-based and civic groups.

The NALEO Educational Fund's constituency includes more than 2,000 Latino elected education and school board members with first-hand knowledge of the effect this legislation would have. The DREAM Act provides opportunities for precisely the high-quality individuals we want in our country, and we applaud legislators for understanding the great benefits this measure confers on our country and communities.

After this historic victory in the House, it is now time to shift efforts to ensure that the U.S. Senate rises to the same level of responsibility of the lower chamber and makes the DREAM Act a reality. Several senators are sitting on the fence, and it's time to tell them to step up to the plate in the name of what is good for our nation as a whole.

Some of these "undecideds" supported the DREAM Act in the past and others come from states with high Latino populations. They need to be reminded that Latinos are a constituency that matters. Call your senator, tell him or her to do the right thing and give these deserving young people an early present with a "yea" vote for the DREAM Act. Don't let your legislator be the Grinch who shattered so many dreams this holiday season.