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Testimony to Congress on the DREAM Act

June 28, 2011

Submitted To The Subcommittee on Immigration,
Refugees, and Border Security
Committee on The Judiciary

United States Senate

“S. 952, Development, Relief, and Education For Alien Minors (Dream) Act Of 2011

The National Education Association (NEA), representing 3.2 million educators across the nation, strongly supports passage of the DREAM Act. We commend the Committee for holding a hearing on this important issue and thank you for the opportunity to submit these comments for the hearing record.

Each year, thousands of undocumented students who have lived in the United States for at least five years graduate from U.S. high schools. Among these students, with whom NEA members work every day, are class valedictorians, straight-A students, and idealistic youth committed to bettering their communities. Yet, because of enormous barriers created by their lack of legal status, many such students are unable to pursue higher education. The loss to these students, and to society as a whole, is significant.

For example:

  • Gaby wants to be a teacher. She has three education degrees and dreams of opening a music center for autistic children.
  • Eric loves being in the lab, he has a full scholarship to Harvard University and wants to immerse himself in cancer research.
  • Felipe wants to be a high school teacher, he dreams of inspiring at risk kids to go to college.

They also dream of a day in which they won’t live in fear of being deported by immigration authorities. All three are undocumented students who were brought to the United States as children. Gaby can’t forget the day when Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided her home and detained her family, and Eric himself was arrested by federal agents on his way to Harvard from Texas.

The DREAM Act is appropriately named, because it is really about the American Dream – that, in this great nation, anyone who works hard can succeed. Unfortunately, for thousands of undocumented students, those dreams remain out of reach.

Imagine what is would mean for us to invest in these students. We can give these good, hard-working, visionary children the same opportunity that many of us had -- to walk across a stage and graduate and to walk towards something better. To walk out of the shadows and into the light of a country that will finally accept them as “our” children. To give them a country that they can finally call home.

The DREAM Act is a practical solution that upholds the best of our shared American values of fair opportunity, accountability, and strong work ethics. It is about students who don’t take anything for granted. Not their education. Not their responsibilities as a member of society. It was written for children who have the dream to graduate and go to college and stay here – where they were raised. They grew up here. They go to church here. They go to school here. This is their home.

The DREAM Act will help promote the skilled workforce necessary for our nation to compete globally. In these troubling economic times, we cannot overlook the benefits of the DREAM Act for our local communities. A 30-year-old immigrant who graduates from college will pay $5,300 more in taxes and cost $3,900 less in government expenses each year than if she had dropped out of high school. State and local taxpayers have already invested in the education of these children in elementary and secondary school and through the DREAM Act could benefit from that investment. Leading businesses such as Microsoft have endorsed the DREAM Act because they recognize that our broken immigration system is draining our economy of the talent and resources needed to compete in the global economy.

The DREAM Act is a practical solution that upholds the best of our shared American values of fair opportunity, accountability, and strong work ethics. We urge Congress to take immediate action to pass the DREAM Act.