Elected officials, UI leadership should support passage of DREAM Act


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It would be a controversial move, no doubt. But, political minefield or not, University of Iowa leaders should throw their weight behind the so-called Dream Act. This vital piece of legislation would lift an artificial ceiling placed on immigrant students' development; it also warrants the support of Iowa's five congressmen and two senators.

While the act failed earlier this year as part of the Defense Authorization Bill, the Senate and House may vote on the now stand-alone Dream Act this week. We've editorialized in support of the law in the past, and our position hasn't changed. UI administrators and elected officials in both parties should embrace the legislation; it would benefit the nation economically and ensure thousands of students' intellectual development wouldn't be arbitrarily stymied.

The legislation would grant legal residency to children brought to the United States illegally, if they met a laundry list of criteria. The children would have had to have entered the United States before age 16, lived in the United States for at least five-consecutive years, graduated from high school (or received GEDs), and have been accepted into a university. In addition, they would have to have a clean criminal records and would be subject to periodic background checks.

University administrators across the country have voiced their support for the bill, including UCLA Chancellor Gene Block.

"Many are graduates and professional students; all of them are highly motivated and mature," Block said in a Dec. 3 conference call with reporters. "Everyone that I've talked to is deeply appreciative of the opportunities made available to them. … I can't imagine a group more deserving of permanent residency and eventual citizenship."

Thomas Arce, the president of the UI chapter of the Latino fraternity Sigma Lambda Beta, said his fraternity also backs Dream Act. He argued that all students should have an opportunity — the American Dream. "Our motto is opportunity for wisdom, wisdom for culture," Arce said in an interview with the Editorial Board.

An economy firmly ensconced in the global marketplace requires a highly skilled workforce to compete. Instead of wasting valuable human capital, as the current system does, the Dream Act would allow students to realize their career goals and buttress the nation's workforce.

More important than the economic benefits, the bill would be a moral victory. Impeding the intellectual capacities of thousands of young people simply because of their parents' actions is inhumane and repugnant. The present system strips these students of agency and autonomy, often consigning them to low-wage jobs and futures marked by unrealized potential.

Republicans will control the U.S. House — and hold several additional seats in the Senate — when the 112th Congress opens in January, a hardly auspicious situation for Dream Act backers. As the White House director of intergovernmental affairs, Cecilia Muñoz, acknowledged in the conference call, "It's clear that the dynamics in Congress are going to be much more difficult in the next Congress."

That's why it's vital Democrats push through the legislation in the lame-duck session. Iowa's Congressional delegation should vote to support the Dream Act next week, and UI leaders should stand up for the act as scores of administrators have already done.

The future of innumerable immigrant students hangs in the balance.

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