11/10/2010 11:59 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

California: A State for DREAMers

Barbara Boxer returns to Washington in great part because of the support of the Latino community. Last week, nearly 1 in 4 California voters were Latino. We played an instrumental role in electing Democrats and rejecting anti-immigrant candidates. Among the many Latinos and immigrants who worked tirelessly to get out the vote in California, many were young people.

They enthusiastically knocked on doors and handed out fliers in support of Boxer because of her support for the DREAM Act, a bill that would provide undocumented youth who came to this country as children with a path to citizenship if they go to college or serve in the military.

The Latino community is clear: Boxer and those re-elected to their seats in the Senate and House of Representatives must not delay in passing this much-needed legislation.

The increasingly powerful Latino electorate in California has proven that those who employ politics of divisiveness will be punished in the Golden State. Those elected to higher office campaigned with the promise that they would push Washington to bring all Americans - immigrant and native-born alike - forward together.

The DREAM Act would do just that. For California, the largest potential beneficiary, the DREAM Act would result in an increasingly educated workforce, which would in turn serve as a natural economic stimulus and make California's communities stronger in the future.

Furthermore, providing young undocumented men and women with the tools necessary to achieve their full potential will have a domino effect: native-born siblings and high school friends also will see college as a viable option for them. Having the nation's largest immigrant population, the ripple effect in California of such legislation cannot be overstated.

Educators also have been clamoring for the DREAM Act. No fewer than 100 higher education leaders have written letters to their representatives, reminding them that education is among the most reliable pathways out of poverty. For many of them, the issue is personal: they have been inspired by the bright young men and women who are American in spirit, but lack the papers to prove their allegiance to the country they love.

The undocumented young people supporting the DREAM Act are perhaps the most persuasive reasons to support this sound legislation. Many of them do not remember their native countries, having left at extremely young ages. They have trained to become engineers, teachers, businesspeople, and their dreams are to give back to the country they call home. They are not asking for anything other than the tools they need to achieve their dreams.

The DREAM Act, which has enjoyed bipartisan support since 2001, is long overdue. California's moms, teachers, businesses, and higher education institutions have all expressed support for this common-sense legislation that could serve as a rare legislative success for members on both sides of the political aisle, but only if politicians do not delay. California's representatives, half of whom are cosponsors of the DREAM Act, should do what's right for their state and the country and pass the DREAM Act now.