Before the scheduled DREAM Act vote Saturday, top Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials hosted a press call on why the DREAM Act will enhance DHS’s ability to enforce immigration laws. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Deputy Commissioner David Aguilar were on the call, discussing the important role the DREAM Act would play in promoting public safety through smart and effective immigration enforcement, as well as the preparedness of the administration.

CBP Deputy Commissioner Aguilar addressed the DREAM Act from a border enforcement perspective, describing it as a “force multiplier” which would allow CBP to focus on criminal smuggling and other violence instead of minor children:

The border has never been as secure as it is today, but there is still a lot of work to be done. We are down by 72% on apprehensions. We have more border infrastructure than ever. The Border Patrol has doubled in size. We have a tremendous amount of support from ICE. We have joined forces with the government of Mexico. There are now a total of 52 [state and local] law enforcement agencies working in an integrated fashion [with the federal government] with a border focus in Arizona. ..We are looking at an additional 1000 agents this year with most being deployed in Arizona. Anything that would help mitigate cross border illegal activity would in and of itself be a force multiplier.

Officials outlined how the DREAM Act will actually make enforcing immigration laws easier for DHS as well as make our country safer. Because the DREAM Act reduces the number of individuals subject to removal, ICE will be able to focus its limited resources on serious criminals. The DREAM Act also rewards only those who come forward, show evidence of good behavior, pay a fee, undergo a background check, and complete high school as well as two years of college or military service. The DREAM Act does not reward illegal behavior, instead it provides incentive to come forward and be a model citizen, making our nation more secure in the process. ICE Director Morton stated:

The DREAM Act is entirely consistent with our policy focusing the limited resources of the government on border security, public safety and maintaining the integrity of the systems.

USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas also talked about how his department would handle a legalization program under the DREAM Act. USCIS is already adept at determining whether an immigrant is eligible for benefits under our law, and DREAM Act beneficiaries would be no different. Director Mayorkas assured the public that USCIS has been preparing for legalization, and used the example of the recent Haitian tragedy and subsequent USCIS response to demonstrate the agency’s readiness. While the Haitian population was smaller than the expected DREAM beneficiaries population, the agency also had less notice to prepare:

We as an agency will be prepared to administer the DREAM Act efficiently. We have systems improvements that will serve us well in serving new applicants…[and we would use] robust criminal and national security screening for those coming before us seeking benefits under the DREAM Act.

Finally, the officials stated that the DREAM Act is just plain good immigration policy which would benefit the U.S. The DREAM Act would allow the 65,000 undocumented students who graduate from high school each year to go to college, join the military, and otherwise pursue their dreams. These voices add to all of the other evidence that the DREAM Act is good policy–a recent UCLA study found that DREAM Act beneficiaries would earn between $1.4 and $3.6 trillion over the lifetimes, adding this money to our nation’s tax base. In the end, the DREAM act would be a great change for these young undocumented students as well as the U.S. society they want to start giving back to.

Photo by USCGPress