David Cho has a dream—and it’s to become a citizen of the country in which he has grown up, graduated high school and now attends college. However, instead of entertaining employment offers upon his graduation this spring like many of his fellow economics majors, this University of California, Los Angeles marching band drum major could face deportation from the only country he has ever called “home.”
It’s heartbreaking stories such as these, combined with the fact that allowing 65,000 students to graduate from U.S. high schools every year without legal status defies fiscal logic, that bring us to call on the Senate to pass the DREAM Act, a bill that would allow young people like David who were brought to this country as minors the opportunity to become citizens and contribute to our economy if they continue their education or join the military.
We do not graduate enough home-grown science, math and engineering majors to keep up with demand. If Congress passed the DREAM Act, the U.S. could increase its competitiveness in manufacturing and other sectors immediately—something the Council on Competitiveness says we desperately need to regain our economic edge in the global economy. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the DREAM Act would generate $2.3 billion in tax revenue over 10 years while UCLA estimates that the law would inject $3.6 trillion into the economy over the next 40 years.
The issue is particularly acute for Asian Americans and the University of California system. Nearly two-thirds of Asian Americans are foreign born; one in 10 students who would be covered by the DREAM Act is Asian American. In the UC system alone, Asian Americans compose approximately 40-44 percent of the undocumented student population. Passage of the DREAM Act would mean that more of the Asian American community’s best and brightest young people can become successful and productive citizens.
In our community, there are many students like David, who also dream of becoming doctors, lawyers, scientists and military leaders in this country. It’s a national shame to waste their talent and force these young people to leave the only home they’ve known. The Senate needs to follow the House’s example and make the DREAM Act a reality today.
Karen K. Narasaki is president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center, a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, which works to advance the human and civil rights of Asian Americans, and build and promote a fair and equitable society for all.