DREAMing of the Bigger Picture

By Francy Naranjo


Motion detectors, floodlights, cameras, barricades, fleets of jeeps, boats, planes, helicopters, drones, sniffer dogs, night-vision goggles and border patrol agents are what the American borders with Mexico consists of. This all sums up to federal government spending of about $18 billion a year, which is more than what the government spends on the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration, together (The Economist). Republicans are fighting to increase spending on immigration enforcement by $8 billion. Such amendment would then require doubling the amount of border patrol agents to 40,000, and increasing the amount of fencing to 700 miles. This spending would also go towards a new technology which would identify visitors planning on becoming residents who have overstayed their visa, which ensures that there is no hiring of any illegal immigrants (The Economist). Is this a rational solution?

The issue of immigration has been a growing “problem” for quite a while. There are debates on completely sealing the border between Mexico and the United States and whether or not legal status should be granted to students who want to pursue a higher education but cannot because of their diminished existence. Finally, there is that percentage of inhabitants who live comparable to your typical resident, but are just missing the title and the privileges.

One solution that has been mingling around Washington DC for years is the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors). This all began with Plyer v. Doe in 1982 when the US Supreme Court gave undocumented immigrant students a chance to receive free public schooling. This case did not apply to postsecondary education, which is what is now being fought till this day. The DREAM act's purpose is to provide permanent residency to students that graduate from a US high school and have lived in the US at least five years before the bill's enactment. Out of the 4.4 million undocumented immigrants younger than the age of 30 in the US, about 39% percent are eligible for this change, that’s about 1.7 million bright futures being put to a halt.

A paper published in the American Economics Association by Kalena E. Cortes shows that passing the DREAM Act would increase college enrollment. How can this positively affect the economy? It was estimated as ‘Fast Facts’ by the Center for American Progress that passing this Act would add a total of $329 billion dollars to the American Economy by 2030. (Graph Source: Authors estimates based on American Community Survey Data 2006-2010, and 2010 IMPLAN Modeling, Center for American Progress)

The Center for American Progress expresses after thorough research that $148 billion resulted from higher earnings would increase spending on goods and services that were most likely not attainable by low skill laborers without a higher education. DREAMers would also have an impact of 1.4 million new jobs and approximately $10 billion in increased revenue. Aside from creating a larger incentive to attend college, it would boost the economy by double the impact, including tax revenues. Nonetheless I conclude that it would increase competition in higher education since we would be adding a new pool of students to the classroom. The Congressional Budget office states that the federal deficit would decrease by $2.2 billion over ten years in response to increased tax revenues. They also predict that immigration reform would increase GDP by 0.8% to 1.3% from 2012 to 2016 over effects on investment spending.

Which do you believe is ultimately the most rational solution?