By Amber L. Blasingame, Associate Attorney
Immigration reform, such as the DREAM Act, may not be the ultimate solution to our economic woes, but it could be a starting point. Whether it increases our national revenue or we break even, the economic benefit of the DREAM Act and similar legislation far outweigh the alternatives.
In January 2012, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Deputy Director, Kumar Kibble, informed the House Judiciary Subcommittee that deportation costs the government $12,500 per person. This includes the arrest, detention, litigation, and removal of an immigrant. A majority of these costs are paid from tax revenue. The Department of Homeland Security memo published on June 15, 2012, granting deferred action to individuals who entered without status as children, estimated that 800,000 undocumented aliens could be eligible for the new benefit. Since June 15, 2012, the government has revised the number of potentially eligible beneficiaries to 1.4 million. Removing all 1.4 million individuals could, therefore, cost the government as much as $175 million according to Deputy Director Kibble’s report.
Legislation such as the DREAM Act requires that the immigrant “pay into the system.” Even the memo offering deferred action to potential DREAMers would require that the undocumented immigrant pay processing fees at every stage and provide evidence of eligibility for the benefit. Instead of the US taxpayer supporting an undocumented immigrant through the process, the undocumented immigrant supports herself through the process and contributes to the greater economy. A recent White House blog cited a report from the Congressional Budget Office that the 2010 version of the DREAM Act could reduce the deficit “by $2.2 billion over ten years because of increased tax revenues.”
DREAMers epitomize our hope for the future of this country. The DREAM Act as previously written required that the undocumented immigrant enroll in post-secondary school at her expense or enlist in the military. The new memo requires that the beneficiary be enrolled in school, have graduated at least from high school, or be a veteran of the armed forces. At present the Census Bureau reports that “only 16 percent of the resident population holding a bachelor’s degree or higher” are immigrants, but immigrants account for “33 percent of engineers, 27 percent of mathematicians, statisticians, and computer scientist, and 24 percent of physical scientists,” in the United States, as cited by the White House. Given the chance, potential DREAMers could increase those numbers substantially, which would increase revenue for both private and public schools nationwide. At present many undocumented individuals who entered as children and earned their education through US schools are unable to enroll in postsecondary institutions because they lack proof of lawful status or are unable to pay non-resident tuition rates. Immigrants benefiting from the DREAM Act would not only “pay into the system,” but would be required to positively contribute to the future of our communities and our nation’s welfare.
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