Mexico City (CNSNews.com) – The DREAM Act of 2017 would give conditional permanent residence status to at least two million immigrants, mostly of Mexican origin, according to experts and a new study.
The legislation, proposed by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), is central to the ongoing immigration debate in Congress over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which led to the recent brief government shutdown.
Announced by President Obama in 2012, DACA covered a subset of the 2.2 million immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally that would be eligible for residence status under the DREAM Act. The Trump administration ended the program last September.
DACA gave approximately 798,900 immigrants who arrived in the U.S. without legal permission as minors – “Dreamers” – temporary work authorization and permission to stay in the US, according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service.
The vast majority of those eligible for DACA were brought to the U.S. by their parents from Mexico, according to analysis by the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C.
The institute did not analyze the country of origin for Dreamers, but a spokeswoman for the institute said it’s safe to assume that most would also be of Mexican and Central American origin.
“The vast majority of Dreamers who might benefit under any scenario would be from Mexico and the three countries in Central America's Northern Triangle [El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras]. I think you could anticipate parents would have similar origins,” Michelle Mittelstad said in an email.
The DREAM Act would provide conditional permanent residence to “undocumented” immigrants, including those covered by DACA, who came to the U.S. before age 18 and who have lived in the U.S. for at least four years prior to the act’s potential passage into law, according to the Center for Migration Studies in New York City.
The act sets specific work and education requirements and includes a criminal background check as well as an English requirement.
Dreamers have been living in the U.S. for an average of 14 years, according to a new study just released by the center, which also estimates that 392,500 have U.S.-citizen children.
“Eighty-eight percent of Dreamers speak English exclusively, very well, or well,” the study found. “Twenty-nine percent have attended college or received a college degree.”
According to the study, American taxpayers have spent $150 billion to educate immigrants who would be eligible for residency under the DREAM Act. Those eligible, if they remain in the U.S., could be expected to contribute $7.6 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product annually.
The study concludes that immigrants covered by the DREAM Act represent “a highly productive, integrated group, deeply embedded in the United States and poised to make – with status and time -- even more substantial contributions to the communities that have invested in them.”
Ira Mehlman, media director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, argues that allowing immigrants covered by the DREAM Act to stay in the U.S. would be “bad policy.”
“It’s amnesty and we’ve been down the road on amnesty in the past,” he said. “It rewards past illegal behavior and encourages more illegal behavior and it doesn’t do anything to benefit the American people. They are still left with the same set of broken promises.”
Mehlman said the Center for Migration Studies study was trying to make the Dreamers all look like “valedictorians, and it’s simply not true.”
“If you look at where the population works it is almost entirely low-skilled service industry kind of jobs.”
“It is our position that they should not be given legal status in this country and should be subject to deportation,” he said, but added that “it doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be deported. They might decide [to leave the country] on their own.”
The Texas-based organization Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together conducted a study of Mexicans who had returned to Mexico from the U.S., and found “they went back because of nostalgia, family matters and because parents in Mexico were aging,” said the organization’s executive director Aracely García Granados.
“They didn’t blame the U.S. for being deported. They appreciate the rule of law, and they also said they did not receive support upon their return of guidance and how to navigate the Mexican system.”
Almost 20 percent of migrants returning to Mexico invested in businesses that were still operating after five years, she said.