Maui News

Akaka Co-Sponsors DREAM Act for Immigrants

May 11, 2011, 8:02 AM HST
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By Wendy Osher

U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka.

A group of U.S. Senators joined forces today in introducing a bill aimed at helping immigrant students earn legal status. The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, also referred to as the DREAM Act, gives undocumented students a chance to earn legal status. As a condition, they must have come to the U.S. as children, are long-term U.S. residents, have good moral character, and complete two years of college or military service in good standing.

U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D) of Hawaii was among those co-sponsoring the bill. “As a former educator and a veteran, I believe that our youth should have the opportunity to reach their potential through college education and military service,” said Sen. Akaka. “The DREAM Act will strengthen our armed forces, add to our skilled workforce, and contribute to our economy, while offering an opportunity for these young adults to pursue the promise of our nation,” he said.

Supporters of the bill say tens of thousands of immigrant students with good grades are shut out of the American dream because of their undocumented status.  Supporters also claim these students have no choice in the matter because they were brought to the U.S. by their parents at a young age and spent most of their lives in America.

In a speech yesterday on the need for immigration reform, President Obama said, “These are kids who grew up in this country, love this country, and know no other place as home. The idea that we would punish them is cruel and it makes no sense. We are a better nation than that,” he said.

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In addition to the benefits for the U.S. Armed forces, bill supporters say the DREAM Act would also stimulate the economy.   A UCLA study concluded that DREAM Act participants could contribute $1.4 to $3.6 trillion to the U.S. economy during their working lives.

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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who supports the DREAM Act, said, “They are just the kind of immigrants we need to help solve our unemployment problem. It is senseless for us to chase out the home-grown talent that has the potential to contribute so significantly to our society.”

A similar bill was introduced in the House of Representatives today by Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL).

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