(c) Josh Sager – November 2012
With the reelection of President Obama and the current alignment of political forces in Washington, now is the best time to pass a federal Dream Act. A Dream Act is good policy and will result in the addition of numerous, intelligent, law-abiding, and high-functioning individuals to the US population.
Dreamers are invested in pursuing their education or may even be risking their lives to protect their adopted country in our armed services. As they are clearly demonstrating their intentions to become productive and law-abiding members of society, Dreamers represent the people who should be first in line to become citizens. It is high time that Dreamers are given their chance to be Americans, and to reach their full potential (improving the lives of all Americans in the process).
The Democratic Party has supported the Dream Act and is heavily indebted to the Hispanic population for its recent electoral wins. The passage of a Dream Act would be a significant Democratic promise kept, and would be a very effective way to start the 2013 legislative session with a policy success.
The Republicans may not support the ideal of the Dream Act, but they cannot afford to worsen their electoral chances by further alienating Hispanic voters. If given a choice between receiving half of the credit for the passage of the Dream Act and being blamed as the sole reason why a Dream Act was no passed, the only intelligent political choice is the former.
If you believe that our country should pass a Dream Act, I would ask that you read the following letter, print a copy, sign it, and send it to President Obama.
Dear President Obama,
Congratulations on your recent victory in the election booths and on securing a second term as our president. The voters spoke decisively and clearly when they said that they would rather give you a second term than turn the reins of power over to Mitt Romney. Your capture of 332 electoral votes—including most of the “swing states”—indicates that you have a mandate to control the agenda during the start of your next term and to pursue the fulfillment of your campaign promises.
While there are numerous issues facing our country—the “fiscal cliff”, decaying infrastructure, and persistent unemployment are three examples—I am contacting you to request that you begin your second term by advancing federal legislation that implements a “Dream Act.” During the campaign for your second presidential term, you repeatedly espoused support for such an act, and I would hope that it would be a high priority once your second term begins.
For years, the idea of a federal Dream Act has been circulating around Washington, only to be defeated or kicked down the road because of issues of politics. To a cynical mind it would appear that the promise of a Dream Act has simply been a ploy, intended to entice Hispanics and supporters of immigrant rights into supporting political candidates who haven’t had any intentions of following through on their promises; fortunately you have a very real opportunity to remedy this cynicism and to finally pass real immigration reform.
A Dream Act, which gives those who are willing to prove that they are contributing members of society a streamlined pathway to citizenship, is simply good policy. Children who were brought into this country and who grew up living as Americans should be given every opportunity to become citizens. If these individuals are pursuing an education or are serving in our armed services, they are proving that they are contributing members of society and are the very people who should be first in line for citizenship. Rather than forcing these hardworking individuals to live in the legal purgatory of an undocumented status, it is moral and beneficial to the country to let them become citizens.
If Dream Act–eligible undocumented immigrants are given a full chance to be part of our society, they will become a force for good within our country. These individuals are pursuing an education and are striving to become high-functioning members of society—in the face of our declining international academic rankings, it makes no sense to marginalize some of our most dedicated students for something over which they have no control.
Without legal status, these highly-skilled “Dreamers” are unable to advance themselves to their full potential and are often forced to relegate themselves to low-skilled labor. The fear of discovery prevents them from ever achieving all of which they are capable, and our society is the worse for it. In addition to the effects on society, these undocumented Dreamers face constant fear and the threat of exploitation.
The passage of a Dream Act would benefit society—as it would add a largely untapped population of intelligent and dedicated individuals to our workforce—and would finally allow those who, for all intents and purposes, are Americans to finally be considered full members of our country.
The Political Perspective
In politics, much of what prevents good policy from being passed is the partisan bickering and ideological fighting which is endemic to Washington. Fortunately, this is one case where the decision is very clear: passing a Dream Act is politically possible, and the group which does pass it will be remembered favorably by those who look back at this period of American history.
You, as president, have the opportunity to be the champion of this issue and to lead both parties towards the passage of a Dream Act. The push to pass a Dream Act will not use up your political capital and even has the potential to increase it. A strong bipartisan policy success in the early portion of your second term would certainly benefit everything else that you could choose to do for the remainder of your time in office.
The public supports the idea of a pathway to citizenship and would be receptive to arguments for the passage of a Dream Act. While you obviously have experts advising you, I would suggest that you frame the debate in the following manner:
- The Moral Argument: Individuals who were not born in America, yet who were brought here as children to grow up as Americans, may not legally be considered American, but this doesn’t mean that they are any less American. They grew up here, follow our laws, have our values, and love our country as much as any other American. After all, we are a nation of immigrants, and the only difference between our ancestors and those who would benefit from the Dream Act is that the laws which make the Dreamers “undocumented” weren’t in place when our ancestors came to this country.
- Societal Benefits: Explain just how beneficial the inclusion of educated, yet currently-undocumented immigrants would be to our country. These people could contribute great things to our country if given the chance to become citizens.
- Personalize the Issue: Make sure that Americans realize that those who would benefit from the Dream Act are just like any other American youth—seeking to get an education, to make a living for themselves, and to better the country that they love and consider their home.
- The Economic Argument: The pursuit of undocumented immigrants who should be citizens costs the federal government a great deal. Dreamers are not dangerous, thus the costs of arresting and holding these individuals is purely wasteful. We waste billions of dollars a year in the pointless campaign to detain non-violent Dreamers—money that can be used elsewhere or to pay down our debt.
In order to persuade the Republicans to support the idea of a bipartisan Dream Act, you can simply put the situation into perspective for them in regards to their electoral prospects. As you are surely aware, Hispanic Americans turned out in large numbers during this election and represented a huge pillar of support for you. According to exit polling, between 70% and 75% of Hispanic American voters supported your re-election over the election of Mitt Romney. While it is grossly unfair to reduce the concerns of Hispanic voters to only immigration policy, it remains true that this issue is one that has significant impact within the Hispanic community.
If you frame the issue of the Dream Act to the Republicans as one where they can either join you and take half of the credit for the policy or face the public as the group which stopped the Dream Act from passing, it is likely that you could get them to cooperate. The Republicans are already at a significant disadvantage among Hispanic voters, and the blocking of a Dream Act would potentially enshrine a generational disadvantage for the Republicans with the fastest growing demographic group; conversely, if they support your Dream Act, you can argue that they will have shown good faith to the Hispanic community and may begin to close the significant Hispanic support gap between their party and yours.
The passage of a federal Dream Act is a purely positive-sum situation, as it would result in everybody involved benefitting. The Dreamers would finally have a path to citizenship that they have been lacking for so long. The United States will gain a large number of skilled, intelligent, and law-abiding citizens who will be able to contribute to their country. Democrats will have passed a law which they have been trying to promote for years, and will have shown that they keep their campaign promises. Republicans will be able to give a sign of good-faith to the Hispanic community and will be able to alleviate the demographic calamity that they are facing in future elections. And finally, you, as President, will be able to start off your first term with a resounding success. Not only will you be remembered as the president to reach across the aisle and achieve immigration reform, but you will also gain a strong policy success on which to base any other policy campaigns that you wish to pursue during your second term.
_____________________, Concerned Citizen
Here is the mailing information for the White House:
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington DC, 20500