03/30/2012 09:40 am ET Updated May 30, 2012

The DREAM Act as A Part of an Infrastructure of Opportunity

Joaquin Castro, candidate for Congress in Texas (CD-20), is fond of talking about the importance of building an "infrastructure of opportunity" for our country. Providing greater access to education is a surefire way to ensure that tomorrows leaders are able to achieve their American dream. Similarly the DREAM Act, which gives the best and brightest undocumented students an opportunity to utilize our higher education systems as a part of broader immigration reform would go a long way to building that infrastructure. In Texas, where Castro is running for Congress, the Republican Governor passed a state version of this important legislation. Congressional Republicans now hope to follow suit, with a watered down version of the DREAM Act. While this is a welcome development, the current construction of their legislation is not a long term solution that builds any sort of infrastructure of opportunity for those eligible; if anything this legislation is really a bridge to nowhere.

Republicans have long complained that our immigration system is broken. It is there contention that the literal infrastructure utilized to process immigrants into and out of the country, rewards illegality. It is highly ironic that they have chosen to use a reworked version of the DREAM Act as the entry point into this debate. This legislation does nothing to fix how people enter or leave the country legally. Furthermore the current version unlike the original version written by Republican Senator Orin Hatch and Democrat Senator Dick Durbin does not provide any pathway to citizenship. In short it is unclear how this legislation would fix, even in a small way our broken immigration system.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio has repeatedly stated that any legislation he introduces will merely adjust the applicant's legal status and will not provide citizenship. Senator Rubio has contended that creating a legalization process would give undocumented immigrants who earn citizenship the ability to sponsor family members to come to the United States legally. If this is a legitimate concern of Senator Rubio's doesn't it make sense for him to bring his party to the table to negotiate on a broader package of immigration legislation? The Democratic Party has a plan to fix our broken immigration system which includes the DREAM Act, and could include much more. While it is nice that the GOP has decided to come to the table on this small part of reform, if the GOP's concern is legal immigration then a much broader discussion must occur. The reality is there has never been a better time to address the need for broad reform then now.

Migration into the United States from Mexico is currently at a net zero, the total number of people entering the country is the same as it is leaving. At a time when migration is so low now is the time to build the infrastructure of opportunity which will allow the United States to truly take advantage of the contribution of those currently here and those that want to come. The DREAM Act is a critical component of this conversation, of this investment in the infrastructure to allow those here and those who want to come to contribute. It is not the only part. Democrats have a vision for fixing our broken system, one in which the DREAM Act is included, that is where the Republican Party's input is most needed.

An investment in overhauling the process for people to enter and leave the country legally is an investment in building the infrastructure of opportunity for those currently here and those who would proudly be a part of our country. Just ask Joaquin Castro, whose grandmother came over from Mexico nearly a hundred years ago, two generations later her grandson is running for Congress and her other grandson is the mayor of San Antonio. Just ask New Mexico Governor Susan Martinez whose grandfather entered the country without documentation only to see his granddaughter ascend to the highest office in the state. Both of these families worked hard and have contributed greatly to this country. How many of the current children here who are eligible for DREAM or those who are currently living in the shadows could be future Congressmen, Mayors or Governors?

The reality remains, those people currently here without documentation contribute positively to the country, and they are not going anywhere. The question remains, do we build that infrastructure of opportunity or settle for a status quo which is clearly not working.