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Bill should allow immigrants to explore opportunities

A bill currently under consideration in Congress would increase military recruitment and give more students the opportunity to attend college. It would reward those who serve as role models in their communities and those who serve the United States in the armed forces. Yet this bill, the DREAM Act, has remained controversial and impossible to pass since it was first proposed in 2001, because it confronts the problem of illegal immigration.

Although there have been minor changes in the DREAM Act in the last nine years, the major features have stayed the same. In essence, the bill would allow undocumented aliens who came to the United States as minors — and who have graduated from high school with a clean criminal record — to have a path to legal residency and, ultimately, citizenship. This path offers undocumented aliens two options: They can complete two years of college, or they can serve in the military for two years and be honorably discharged. At that point, they gain legal residency. Far from being “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, this bill is an opportunity to reward those who provide a service to America. Furthermore, many undocumented minors were brought to the United States by their parents. They should be given a chance to succeed, not punished for a choice that was not theirs.

Time and again, the DREAM Act’s progress has been halted in Congress. There are two main causes for this legislative failure. The first is political maneuvering for its own sake. The second is that any provisions that benefit aliens without legal status — that is, undocumented or illegal immigrants — are controversial. Nearly every time the DREAM Act has been put to a vote in the Senate, it has received a majority of votes, and yet it has never achieved the 60 needed to break a filibuster. Few Senators have legitimate causes for opposition and instead argue against the process used. Others think the DREAM Act should only be passed as part of a larger immigration reform package. These legislative niceties may seem like minor delays to Congressmen, but to those aliens who did not come to America by their own choice and wish to contribute to society, every delay increases their risk of being deported. Solving immigration reform as a whole will take years, but passing the DREAM Act is a step that should be taken immediately.