Memo to Outgoing 111th Congress: Pass the DREAM Act!

Stephanie Rushford, Associate Editor

The 111th Congress has entered its lame duck session, with the newly elected 112th Congress waiting in the wing to take office in January. Traditionally, Congresses in lame duck periods do not pass any new legislature, however, newly reelected Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised to reintroduce the Dream Act for a vote in the Senate. The Dream Act would grant citizenship to immigrants who complete college or at least two years of military service and maintain good moral character. In September, Congress voted down the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, which included the Dream Act and a provision to Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the final version of the bill.

While it may be difficult for Democrats like Reid to receive any support for the Dream Act, this act may foster growth in the current lagging economy. Many Americans fear a comprehensive immigration policy that would grant citizenship to illegal immigrants, citing that these undocumented workers broke the law. Many also object to illegal immigrants taking jobs that were meant for Americans. However, the United States is part of a global economy, with small business and corporations looking for the brightest and best candidate for the position. Especially in this economic downturn, businesses are looking to minimize their risk by shoring up their debts and outsourcing their businesses to more cheaper and stable job markets aboard.

Unfortunately, a consequence of the recession has been the great competition for jobs in this country. Ironically, even with the high unemployment rate, many employers are struggling to fill open positions; New York Times writer Motoko Rich highlights the problem of one such company looking to hire:

All candidates at Ben Venue [Laboratories] must pass a basic skills test showing they can read and understand math at a ninth-grade level. A significant portion of recent applicants failed, and the company has been disappointed by the quality of graduates from local training programs. It is now struggling to fill 100 positions.

Yet businesses aren’t the only ones concerned about economic prospects in this country; parents are worried that their children will be shut out from high paying jobs due to their lack of skills. Furthermore, China has embraced internationalism by teaching English to their students and requiring that governmental employees must learn 100 English sentences by 2015. Moreover, many of the students looking to qualify for the Dream Act are bilingual; studies show that children raised with two are more languages enhances mental flexibility and cognitive skills. Additionally, the United States is behind many industrialized countries when it comes to math education:

Only 6.04 percent of the students in the United States in 8th grade in 2005 scored at the advanced level in math on the NAEP. Some critics feel that the standard set by the NAEP governing board is excessively stringent. However, the 2007 Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS 2007), another international test that has been administered to students throughout the world, appears to have set a standard very similar to NAEP 2005, as only 6 percent of U.S. 8th graders scored at the advanced level on that test as well.

Furthermore, these twelve industrialized countries have twice the percentage of advance students as the United States: Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Japan, Canada, Macao-China, Australia, Germany and Austria.

The United States economy will face many hurdles in the upcoming years, with businesses still hesitant to take on risk and hire new employees. These companies are still shell-shocked from the recession and will be watching the new Congress for business-friendly legislature.  Additionally, the global economy has and will continue to impact the American economygreatly; our nation must adapt to the growing international competition or we will lose our standing in the world. It is understandable that many Americans are scared, having lost their jobs since the recession began. Nonetheless, using illegal immigrants as scapegoats for our problems will not solves our economic and education crises. Sadly, this recession has taught Americans the painful lesson that jobs do not “belong” to one nation or nationality, they are offered to the most qualified person. Still, with passage the Dream Act, and a bit of hard work, America will achieve great success in this global economy.


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