05/16/2012 07:27 am ET Updated Jul 16, 2012

Dream Bigger

With high school graduation approaching, we are reminded of the opportunity and promise of America. But for the children brought to this country by an undocumented family member -through no fault of their own - the promise of America is broken. Many did not even know they were not born here until they went to apply for a driver's license or a part-time job. But they toiled just the same. They studied here, worked here, built a life here and yet our laws tell them, that despite all their work, they do not belong. They are caught in the middle of a system that ignores the fact that they did not commit a crime, but punishes them anyway in their pursuit of the American Dream.

It is a gut-wrenching situation for these kids. It also requires Americans to balance compassion with law-and-order. In instances like these, common sense needs to be the referee so we don't have a permanent underclass of kids caught in limbo.  Our Congress members and Senators are elected to address these issues but haven't solved this problem. There is a bill called the "Dream Act" that gives children in this situation citizenship and in turn allows them to petition for their family members to also apply for citizenship in return for two years of school or military service. Unfortunately, it is cobbled together, fraught with loopholes and has never garnered enough support on either side to pass for over 12 years. This problem is not going away and it will take strong leadership to create a workable solution that makes sense and respects our nation's laws.

Such a solution is being discussed by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio from Florida --who understands the need for common sense solutions that can actually unite Americans and Congress. The time for a new approach is now. Rubio is proposing a conservative policy alternative to the Dream Act that will allow children of undocumented parents who were brought to the U.S. at an early age - through no fault of their own - to earn a student or work visa while they attend college or serve in the military for four years, and then to apply for legal residency and go through our legal immigration system. This way they can earn legal status while at the same time following our current immigration system.

Most Americans are fair and compassionate and at the same time want our laws and borders to be respected. In a recent poll released by the Hispanic Leadership Network, by a margin of 83% to 12%, American voters support "allowing children of undocumented immigrants who have been here for years to obtain legal residency status after their honorable discharge from service in the U.S. military" and by a margin of 67% to 29%, they support "allowing children of undocumented immigrants who have been here for years to obtain legal residency if the graduate from college." Support crosses party lines and includes Republicans, Democrats and Independents.
Additionally, when presented with a choice between the current failed DREAM Act and Sen. Rubio's alternative, Americans across all sectors support Sen. Rubio's version. Both Hispanics and Independent voters prefer Rubio's 57% to 33%, while the broader electorate prefers Rubio's version 55% to 32%.

This is proof that there is a workable solution forward that can unite us all.

People of good will strongly disagree over many aspects of the immigration debate, but allowing the children of undocumented immigrants who have grown up in America the opportunity to earn legal status with a work visa if they serve honorably in the military or graduate from college is one aspect of that debate that unites most Americans across party and racial lines.
We can dream bigger and our Congress can do better. Our elected officials should make the responsible decision to work with Senator Rubio on his proposal and solve this problem. There are many dreamers depending on it.