After Sen. Harry Reid tabled a vote on the DREAM Act this week in order to take up the passed House version of the bill next week, thousands of students, advocates and community leaders have and will continue to urge their Senators to pass the DREAM Act. Unfortunately, some of these calls are being answered with excuses—excuses which are in dire need of what Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert would call “truthiness.” Disagreeing with a specific piece of legislation based on its merits is one thing, but making up your own facts out of political convenience is just plain wrong. It’s also an incredible disservice to your constituency and the American public. The following are excuses reiterated by Senators who have previously voted for the DREAM Act but who may now vote against it. The facts follow their excuses.
CLAIM: DREAM Act beneficiaries will bring family members en masse.
FACT: DREAM Act Will Not Open Flood Gates to Family Members
It would take upwards of 25 years for a DREAM Act beneficiary to get a green card for their parents, and 30-40 years for their siblings. (A U.S. citizen CANNOT petition at all for a grandparent, niece, nephew, uncle, aunt, or cousin under our immigration laws). DREAM Act beneficiaries would have to wait in line for 10 years under a conditional nonimmigrant status before they would be able to adjust to a lawful permanent resident status and three more before becoming US citizens. After this 13-year process to become citizens, they could finally apply for their parents or siblings only to come to the U.S. If their parents (presumably) entered illegally, they would be subject to a 10-year bar from being in the U.S., if they are even eligible at all. So, in order to legalize, they would have to wait the initial 13 years, plus leave the U.S. for another 10, and then finally apply—a process which would probably take upwards of 25 years. The wait for any siblings would likely be even longer. They would also likely be subject to the 10-year bar, and in addition, would have to wait in the backlog for a visa—a process which could take up to 30 more years.
CLAIM: The DREAM Act will encourage more illegal immigration.
FACT: The DREAM Act DOES NOT encourage more illegal immigration.
The DREAM Act is not a magnet for new arrivals. Only those who have been here for five years or longer before enactment will qualify and they must have arrived when they were under 16-years old. You can’t be older than 29 to qualify.
CLAIM: Americans want Congress to work on reducing the deficit and fixing the economy.
FACT: The DREAM Act will reduce the deficit and create jobs.
According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the House version of the DREAM Act (H.R. 6497) would reduce deficits by about $2.2 billion and increase revenues by $1.7 billion over the 2011-2020 period.
CLAIM: We must secure the border first.
FACT: The border has more boots and dollars on it than ever before.
The annual budget of the U.S. Border Patrol stood at $3.0 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2009—a nine-fold increase since FY 1992. The number of Border Patrol agents stationed along the southwest border with Mexico grew to 16,974 in FY 2009—a nearly five-fold increase since FY 1992. The combined budgets of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) grew from $9.1 billion in FY 2003 to $17.2 billion in FY 2010. In August, President Obama signed another new border bill which will pump $600 million into border enforcement, including funds for 1,500 new border patrol agents and 1,200 National Guard troops.
CLAIM: The DREAM Act has not been properly vetted.
FACT: The basic contours of the DREAM Act have not changed in 10 years.
The DREAM Act has been debated and introduced every session since 2001. This is not a new idea or piece of legislation that the Senate is unfamiliar with.
Any debate worth having should be an honest one. If a Congressional member intends to vote against a piece of legislation, fine, but at least have the courage to be honest about why. Distorting the facts in order to avoid political controversy is not a good enough reason and these DREAM Act students certainly deserve better.
Photo by AVAVA.