The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) this week released a report that paints a misleading financial portrait of the DREAM Act, federal legislation that would grant legal immigration status to certain undocumented immigrants who meet "good citizenship" requirements, like attending institutions of higher learning and serving in the armed forces. They claim the bill would be a burden on U.S. taxpayers and would "crowd out" native-born students in the classroom. However, the available evidence does not support either of these dire predictions. In fact, institutions of higher education overwhelmingly support the DREAM Act, which would likely increase school revenues as students who would not normally attend college start to pay tuition. The 10 states which, since 2001, have passed laws allowing undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition have not experienced a large influx of new immigrant students that displaces native-born students.
Most DREAM Act students would likely enroll in community colleges, most of which have open enrollment, based on a philosophy that all qualified students should have the opportunity to learn. Historically, more than 80% of community college students hold full or part-time jobs, thus contributing to their own educations (and the tax base) even as they attend school. The American Association of Community Colleges estimates that state and local governments receive a 16% return on every dollar they invest in community colleges due to the increased earnings of college graduates.
Legalizing DREAM Act students would increase beneficiaries' earnings potential, as well as the U.S. tax base. A 2010 study by the UCLA North American Integration and Development Center estimates that the total earnings of DREAM Act beneficiaries over the course of their working lives would be between $1.4 trillion and $3.6 trillion.
CIS's cynical mischaracterization of the DREAM Act is not only inaccurate, but hypocritical as well. CIS frequently laments that so many immigrants to the United States have low levels of education, yet opposes a measure that would allow some of these immigrants to become more educated. What alternative to the DREAM Act does CIS propose? According to the Center for American Progress the cost to deport more than two million children and young adults who were raised in the United States would be $48.6 billion. How is that sound fiscal policy?
The U.S. economy doesn't need more deportations; it needs more college graduates. According to a recent report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, "not enough Americans are completing college... by 2018, we will need 22 million new college degrees-but will fall short of that number by at least 3 million postsecondary degrees, associate's or better." The DREAM Act would help meet this need. Congress should pass it without delay.