NCLR has long supported the "Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act." For nearly a decade, we have urged Congress to do the right thing. We have worked with a distinguished group of bipartisan senators and other members of Congress to try to get this legislation passed. Yet, despite overwhelming support from the Latino community and from leaders in the military, academia, and business, hope for this modest and sensible piece of legislation has been dashed time and again.
Every year that the "DREAM Act" does not pass, more hardworking students lose their chance at achieving the American Dream--and our country loses too. The students who would be helped by the act were brought by their parents as young children to this country, which has become their only real home. They are success stories--youth leaders and dedicated students graduating with honors from high schools in their hometowns. They want the chance to go on to college or serve in the military so that they can work, give back, and contribute to the communities in which they were raised and to the only country that they have ever known. These youth are already working hard and are prepared to work even harder.
Our country needs and will benefit immensely from their talents, their gifts, and their drive to succeed. We know from a recently released study that the students covered under the "DREAM Act" will contribute at least one trillion dollars to the American economy over the course of their lifetimes; the intangible benefits of investing in these students' futures, however, are immeasurable. Morality shows us that passing this legislation is the right thing to do, but there is a political dimension that shows us that the "DREAM Act" is also the smart thing to do.
Congress needs to listen to Latino voters, who spoke clearly in the midterm elections. As is everyone, Latinos are deeply concerned about jobs, education, and health care, but it was the immigration issue that got Latino voters to the polls. In states where candidates ran on anti-immigrant platforms, such as in Nevada, Colorado, and California, Hispanic voters--the fastest-growing voting bloc in the nation--overwhelmingly responded and gave the margin of victory to the other side.
Latino voters want secure, effective, and humane immigration reform, and that starts with the "DREAM Act." What Hispanic voters do not want is more excuses and more attempts to move the goal posts. The upcoming up-or-down vote on the "DREAM Act" will be closely monitored by a community that has grown tired of excuses, delays, and false promises.
And these members of Congress should remember that there will no longer be a place to hide in the minds of Latino voters. Latinos will see congressional votes for what they are--a clear indication of which members of Congress support the future of these young people and this nation. There is no doubt in my mind that this vote will also reveal who stands with the Latino community or who does not.