Prior to the election, Senate Democrats attempted to pass the DREAM Act — which would give a path to legalization to undocumented immigrants who enrolled in the military or completed a college education — as an amendment to the defense appropriations bill. Unfortunately, they failed to meet the 60-vote threshold to achieve cloture on a 56-43 vote.
Now, Senate Democrats are once again pushing for a vote on the bill, hoping to get it passed during the lame duck session. Yet one Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson (NE), has declared his opposition to the bill, saying yesterday that he “won’t support any motion to proceed or any kind of cloture on the DREAM Act”:
“I’m not going to support any act that I don’t think adds to jobs, or military or to the economy. Consequently I won’t support any motion to proceed or any kind of cloture on the DREAM Act,” Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) told POLITICO. “In addition, I think that has to be part of an overall comprehensive solution to immigration once we have the border secured, not until then.”
It is simply false to say that the DREAM Act would not “add” to the military. The bill is specifically written to incentivize undocumented immigrants to join the military and serve our country in exchange for being offered a path to citizenship. As retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Military Police Corps Margaret Stock said during a conference call in support of the legislation in September, “Passage of the DREAM Act would directly benefit American national defense by enlarging the pool of highly qualified, US-educated ‘green card’ recruits for the US Armed Forces.” In fact, the Pentagon included the DREAM Act in its FY2010-2012 Strategic Plan as a “smart way” to help the military “shape and maintain a mission-ready All Volunteer Force.”
The economic benefits of incentivizing immigrants to attend college and be able to attain higher-paying jobs would also be enormous. As The College Board notes, “in strictly economic terms, the contributions that DREAM Act students would make over their lifetimes would dwarf the small additional investment in their education beyond high school, and the intangible benefits of legalizing and educating these students would be significant.” A 1999 RAND study found that “an average 30-year-old Mexican immigrant woman who has graduated from college will pay $5,300 more in taxes and cost $3,900 less in criminal justice and welfare expenses each year than if she had dropped out of high school.”
Polling released last week found that 66 percent of Americans support the DREAM Act, including 57 percent of Republicans. Republicans who pledged to “listen to the American people,” and Nelson who wants to support legislation that adds to the economy or to the military, should support DREAM.
Cross-posted on ThinkProgress.