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DREAM act poised for Senate vote Saturday

The DREAM Act creates a path to US citizenship for young people who were brought into the country illegally while minors. It passed in the House but faces a tougher vote in the Senate.

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That’s because the act’s stringent requirements will act as a “force multiplier” in dissuading families from bringing children into the country illegally, said US Customs and Border Protection Deputy Commissioner David Aguilar. “Passage of this bill would in fact have a positive effect on the ability to address our nation’s borders.”

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“There is a lot of work to be done,” he acknowledged, “but the border today is as secure as it’s ever been.”

Critics emphasize costs

Critics of the DREAM Act – and of illegal immigration generally – say just the opposite is true.

Americans for Legal Immigration, a political action committee in Raleigh, NC, warns that a waiver in the bill “would allow the Secretary of Homeland Security and President Obama to grant amnesty to most illegal immigrants in America.”

“It would displace several million innocent American students, workers, and voters," said William Gheen, President of ALIPAC.

The Center for Immigration Studies in Washington has calculated the estimated financial impact of the DREAM Act.

Assuming no fraud, center researchers estimate that 1.03 million illegal immigrants will eventually enroll in public institutions (state universities or community colleges) as a result of the DREAM Act, and that each one will receive a tuition subsidy from taxpayers of nearly $6,000 for each year he or she attends for a total cost of $6.2 billion a year.

“Advocates of the DREAM Act argue that it will significantly increase tax revenue, because with a college education, recipients will earn more and pay more in taxes over their lifetime,” states the center study. “However, several factors need to be considered when evaluating this argument.”

Among these factors, according to the report:

• Any hoped-for tax benefit is in the long-term, and will not help public institutions deal with the large influx of new students the act creates in the short-term.

• Given limited spaces at public institutions, there will almost certainly be some crowding out of US citizens – reducing their lifetime earnings and tax payments.

• The DREAM Act only requires two years of college; no degree is necessary. The income gains for having some college, but no degree, are modest.

• Because college dropout rates are high, many illegal immigrants who enroll at public institutions will not complete the two years the act requires, so taxpayers will bear the expense without a long-term benefit.

The DREAM Act passed in the House of Representatives on Dec. 8 by a vote of 216-198.

Monitor staff writer Stacy Teicher Khadaroo contributed to this report.

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