Tuesday, October 16, 2007

California DREAM Act Is Vetoed

For the second year in a row, Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed the California DREAM Act, stating in a letter to lawmakers that that the state cannot afford to bear the costs of financing the higher education of undocumented students who would be eligible to apply for financial aid under the DREAM Act.

But highly educated students are generally assets to California, aren’t they? Societies usually benefit from having more highly educated people because they tend to become more productive members of their communities.

But since the governor is most concerned with the costs and benefits of undocumented students, there are two ways that he has lost the opportunity to invest in a valuable group that would have returned more than what would have been invested in them.

First, when denied financial assistance, many undocumented students are financially hindered from going to college. When they are unable to earn college degrees, they are unable to earn higher incomes. We therefore prevent our government from collecting higher taxes from their higher incomes—which would have been used to the benefit of society.

Second, without higher incomes, the current college-age undocumented students will not have as many resources to provide for their children. Unlike their undocumented parents, these children can’t be denied state assistance and other social services because they will be U.S. citizens. Denying aid to our current generation of undocumented students will therefore cost the state more in the near future.

The governor’s decision to veto the DREAM Act is a shortsighted decision because the amount of money it would have cost the state would have returned at least two-fold.

Yet there is something more important at stake here than the monetary costs and benefits of the state. When some of us oppose the DREAM Act as a policy that would have given amnesty to “illegal immigrants,” we are hurting our society more than we think. Many of us choose to romanticize the European immigrants from the twentieth century as having tried hard to become active members of society, insisting that immigrants today are doing the opposite.

But by vetoing this act we are forcing undocumented students to continue living in the shadows of society. We then hold this against them as proof that they refuse to assimilate. But the very fact that these students are trying to go to college demonstrates that they want to become productive members of this country.

It proves that they do wish to assimilate.


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