Late last year, the U.S. Senate tried but failed to muster the courage or the votes necessary to pass the DREAM Act -- a narrowly missed opportunity for lawmakers to put politics aside and do the right thing for our country and our economy. But despite the failure of the past year, there's still reason to hope.
Today, I joined Sen. Dick Durbin in re-introducing the DREAM Act in the Senate, reviving the effort to allow some of the best and brightest young students to give back to the country they call home through military service or by getting a college degree.
The DREAM Act is by no means a silver bullet. Washington must take action to provide a common-sense fix to our broken immigration system that secures the border, cracks down on employers who willfully break the law and requires the undocumented to pay a fine, pay their taxes, learn English and pass criminal background checks. We have waited far too long to reform our immigration laws. Washington inaction has come at the expense of our families, small business owners, farmers and students.
But in the absence of comprehensive reform, we should work to boost our economy, strengthen our Armed Forces and help hard-working kids fulfill their full potential by passing the DREAM Act. The American people support the bill, and so does a majority of the U.S. Senate. But for many kids, the clock is ticking. The Administration can and should act now to grant deferred action to exemplary students who meet the rigorous requirements for eligibility under the DREAM Act. Not only will these children be better off for it -- our country will be better off as well.
When I was superintendent of Denver Public Schools, I saw the potential of some of our best and brightest students cut short, punished for the actions of others -- kids who had grown up and done well in our school system, and kids who know no other home but America. This is unacceptable.
A student who has excelled in the classroom should have the opportunity to attend college and become a productive, taxpaying member of society. Upon receiving a college education, these youth will be able to transition into higher paying jobs and will be paying their fair share in taxes. In fact, a recent UCLA study concluded that DREAM Act participants could contribute as much as $3.6 trillion to the U.S. economy during their working lives.
If we are going to get our fiscal house in order, we need to make sure we are getting the full return on our investment and not closing the door on new tax revenues as these young people become contributors to our economy. The DREAM Act will require these young people to pay their fair share of taxes. We are acting against our own financial interests by keeping these youth in uncertain legal status.
And if we fail to pass the DREAM Act, we are also acting against our own national security interests by denying patriotic youth the ability to serve in our military. According to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, about 35,000 non-citizens serve and 8,000 permanent resident aliens enlist in our Armed Forces every year. The DREAM Act represents an opportunity to assist with military recruiting and readiness.
With the reintroduction of the DREAM Act, Congress once again has the chance to do the right thing... but it needs some nudging. That's where you come in. I need your help. Will you take a moment to submit an online video telling Congress why you support the DREAM Act? Will you share your story? And just as important, will you encourage your friends and family to do the same?
Supporting the DREAM Act is not only the right thing to do; it is also a practical solution. We owe it to the taxpayers who have invested in the education of these youth, the teachers who have fostered their development, and military leaders who can benefit from these new recruits to move forward on the DREAM Act without delay.
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