As public support for the DREAM Act continues to mount in the build up to a Senate vote, the academic community is stepping forward on behalf of undocumented youth who call America home. Today, noted immigration scholars from Princeton, the University of North Carolina, NYU, UC-Irvine, and the University of Washington banded together to discuss why punishing the children of undocumented immigrants is a bad idea and why NOT passing the DREAM Act would prevent undocumented youth from giving back to the American economy. Today’s discussion follows the release of a letter signed by nearly 300 scholars from the around the U.S. urging Congress to pass the DREAM Act. To date, at least 29 higher educations associations including U.S. Students Association (USSA) and the College Board and presidents and chancellors from more than 73 colleges and universities have publicly endorsed the bill.

Doug Massey, Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, pointed out that passing the DREAM Act is not only the smart thing to do, but the moral thing:

Not only is passing the Dream Act in the best interests of the United States; it is the right thing to do. If Congress cannot pass a bill that lifts the burden of illegality from innocent children to unleash the productive potential of its own young people, then I fear for the future of the country in both moral and practical terms.

Ruben G. Rumbaut, Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Irvine, highlighted the talent and possibility of undocumented youth:

… Popular conceptions about immigrants, regardless of their status, do not square with the facts. These ambitious students are at once exemplars of the possibilities and contradictions of the United States, of the American Dream and “Deportation Nation.”

It would compound the tragedy for the United States Senate to miss what may be a last opportunity (as far as can be foreseen) to extend to the most successful of these youth nothing more than a fair chance at life—and in so doing act in the best interests and values of this nation.

And these are only a few of the hundreds of university professors across the U.S. who have not only studied, researched and authored innumerable reports on immigration, but worked side by side with undocumented youth in their classrooms. In a recent sign-on letter, university professors from across the U.S. made the academic case for passage of the DREAM Act.

Over these last weeks and months we have seen our own students—those who are in our classrooms—struggle to meet school expenses, graduate from our universities, and then face uncertain futures and the constant risk of deportation. But we have also witnessed their incredible capacity to thrive despite debilitating circumstances.

After decades of research it is clear that, by punishing the children of undocumented immigrants, this country is creating a disenfranchised group of young people cut off from the very mechanisms that would allow them to contribute to our economy and society.

Today’s call makes the politics of stalling DREAM harder to defend as literally years of academic research and hundreds of university scholars are saying the same thing—in addition to being the right thing to do, the DREAM Act benefits our schools, economy, and society.

As Roberto Gonzales of the University of Washington asks:

We must ask ourselves what we want for our country— a growing and vulnerable underclass of American-raised individuals or a significant number of young people ready and capable of strengthening our economy and society?

Photo by Peyri.