On March 26, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act was introduced to both the House and Senate - a good first step in the right direction for immigration reform in this country.
The act's beneficiaries would be alien youth who:
1) entered the country under the age of 16,
2) have graduated high school or obtained a GED,
3) have good moral character (i.e. no criminal record) and
4) have at least five years of continuous residence in the United States.
Those who meet these conditions are granted six years of conditional permanent residence during which they must either obtain a two-year college degree or complete two years of military service. Upon completion of these conditions, individuals will be given the chance to adjust their residence status from conditional permanent residence to U.S. citizen.
It's about time we make it easier for upstanding individuals to become citizens.
The DREAM Act provides a specific outline for the type of individual to be considered for this new manner of citizenship. This is essential for any immigration reform that the U.S. commits itself to.
To come to this country illegally is a crime, and those who commit this crime should not automatically be granted the privilege of citizenship: United States citizenship is only a right if someone is born here.
However, as we have seen in numerous dimensions of U.S. society, different sets of rules and repercussions must be placed on minors than those that are placed on adults. We must be willing to see the potential for citizenship in all children and adolescents, even those who may be undocumented. The DREAM Act does this.
It targets individuals who have already demonstrated good conduct and presents them with the opportunity to achieve a goal in exchange for the individual's commitment to the U.S.
Some opponents of the bill maintain that it provides a path to legal citizenship for people who illegally entered this country. While true, this does not make the bill inherently wrong.
All of the undocumented individuals in this country are not simply going to leave; it is best to identify those who show potential and allow them a path to legalized citizenship instead of attempting mass deportation.
In addition, for many undocumented individuals under the age of 16, it may not have been their choice to come to the U.S., but if they're doing their best here, the government should try to meet them in the middle.
Others point out that the options given to those who qualify for the DREAM Act are deceiving because many undocumented youth cannot afford college. Thus, some progressive opponents of the bill see it as a way to get more people into the military during a time when recruitment is proving to be difficult.
While this may be the case, it is hardly a reason to kill the DREAM Act. There are over 12 million unauthorized migrants in the U.S., according to estimates by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, and they aren't going to disappear anytime soon.
The illegal immigration issue must be solved in steps, not all at once and it's time for the U.S. to wise up to that fact.
Jesse Goldberg is a freshman English major who, like Dr. King, has a DREAM.