One issue in the 2012 presidential election was immigration reform. America wanted to know how each candidate would deal with undocumented citizens in the U.S. The public paid close attention as they learned what each candidate would do with the estimated 2.1 million undocumented youth that have grown up in this country and are essentially American minus 9 numbers (Social Security).
While Mitt Romney supported “self-deportation,” President Obama planned to continue his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. However, DACA is only a temporary help for undocumented youth. Now that Obama has been re-elected he can focus his attention on passing what was once a bipartisan bill, the federal Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act. Not only can this be used as a platform to help mend the political divide in American politics, it can help jumpstart a struggling economy.
Comprehensive immigration reform was a bipartisan issue for years. In fact, when the federal DREAM Act was first brought to Congress in 2001 by Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin and Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, it was introduced as a bipartisan measure. This act would provide a six-year-long path to citizenship for qualifying undocumented youth. However, as the country suffers from a massive political divide, Republicans and Democrats have been moving farther and farther away from one another.
There is now a clear divide between the parties on how the country should handle immigration reform. While Republicans favor giving states more power, Democrats want to reform immigration law on a federal scale once and for all. Both parties have clearly stated that they cannot compromise on their opposing positions. Nonetheless, in light of the Democratic victory, there is hope the GOP will get back on board to support the federal DREAM Act.
In the political deadlock, this country needs cooperation and compromise to make real change. The Republican Party was confident it would win the 2012 election because the economy was still suffering under Obama and his Democratic administration. However, polls suggest that Republicans are having trouble gaining votes from people of color. Their usual supporters, older white males, may not be enough to win elections in the future.
The GOP can use the DREAM Act as a way to start mending the political divide and gain supporters for future elections. The Republican Party can benefit from embracing the country’s demographics shift. If the DREAM Act becomes bipartisan again, it can lead the way toward fixing other important issues through bipartisanship.
Passing the DREAM Act would improve the economy as well. An analysis from the Center for American Progress reported that granting citizenship to the estimated 2.1 million DREAM Act-eligible youth (DREAMers) would add $329 billion to the U.S. economy and create 1.4 million new jobs by 2030. The study used data from the American Community Survey, collected between 2006 and 2012, to create a model that estimated likely future earnings of DREAMers. Since the ACS data used to make the income projections include numbers from the climax of the recession, earnings may even be higher than estimated in the report. DREAMers will contribute greatly to the economy if they can move from being undocumented and working off the books for a very low wage.
President Obama did a good job by creating DACA, but it is not enough. DACA does not do justice to the potential of DREAMers who have a lot to contribute to American society. This country cannot afford to lose young people who are willing and able to steer politics and our economy in the right direction.
Mayte Ortiz is a senior at Baruch College pursuing a public affairs major and a law minor. She lives in Rego Park.