The DREAM Act would allow young immigrants brought into the country illegally before age 16 to stay, apply for permanent residence, and eventually apply for US citizenship. There would be strict conditions. Beneficiaries would have to be younger than 30, have lived in the US five or more years straight, and have earned a GED or high school diploma. If they completed at least two years of college or military service and passed various background checks, they would then be able to apply for permanent resident status.
The US Department of Defense strongly supports the DREAM Act. The offer of military service as a path to citizenship would have led tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of immigrants to enlist. With the US military stretched to the breaking point by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, top officials saw the DREAM Act as a key recruiting tool. Indeed, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness refers to the DREAM Act in its 2010-2012 strategic plan as a "smart" way to draw good recruits to military service.
The Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, called on Congress to pass the Act.
So Senator Graham yelps about the need to enhance US national security through border security, on one hand, while blocking the use of a key military recruitment tool and thereby undercutting national security, on the other. Just politics, I guess.
Why? Because Big Business knows that immigrants who took the higher education route to citizenship would mean billions in additional tax revenue and greater national competitiveness in the global economy. They know that the US is now seeing a slight out-migration of educated talent headed for greener economic pastures in India, China and elsewhere. As New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg put it, if we can't keep the best and the brightest in the United States, and attract more of them to the United States, all the next big business innovations will happen outside the United States.
Unlike many of the young entrepreneurs now leaving the United States, the young people embraced by the DREAM Act are American in everything but name. Their talent, nurtured here, would remain America's talent.
I wish I could say "wait 'til next time" and shake my fist with respect to the prospect of passing the DREAM Act sooner than later, but with the Republican opposition gaining strength in the new Congress at least two years will pass before we can reasonably hope to hope again. Oh well. At least somebody - if only the nation's military and economic competitors - will be pleased.
Crossposted from Race-Talk.org.