By Alejandra Castillo, Jessica Haughton, Camilla Santos, and Randy Fulton
Over 100,000 immigrants in New York are eligible for the DREAM Act, but new database tracking may interfere. These databases hold personal information affecting young immigrants, also known as DREAMers, access to opportunities in the U.S. including loans and education.
Education is a topic frequently brought up and has become more relevant because of the number of immigrants coming into the country. According to the census, New York alone has almost 4.5 million immigrants. This is one of the largest immigrant populations in the country, which includes undocumented adolescents without access to higher education that the DREAM Act could help. Department of Homeland Security’s Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office (DHS VOICE) database identifies personal information that has led to deportations, including those of minors. DHS VOICE specifically tracks immigrant crimes, but reveals information about their immigration status too. Immigrant minors who have a criminal background, even misdemeanors, are barred benefitting from the Act. They are excluded from financial aid while in some states denied acceptance into state-sponsored higher education institutions.
The DREAM Act has been influential, but heavily contested over the last decade. Immigrants are looking at congress to pass the Act for a fair chance at an education in the U.S. If it passes, many young immigrants would be able to access higher education opportunities. “Life is hard enough for kids today trying to get to college and get a job and move out into the world,” says Julia Preston, a contributing writer with the Marshall Project on immigration. According to the Center for American Progress, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that by 2020, 700,000 children and young adults will earn permanent residence under the bill too. As New York continues to grow, over one third of the population can be eligible age-wise for the DREAM Act. And, according to Preston, “New York is immigration.” The Act can help underage undocumented immigrants become residents and pursue a good education to give them a start in the U.S.
Preston along with Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) show a strong opinion of wanting young immigrants to get an education without going through the hardships their previous peers may have gone through. “At this point, it makes little sense to be putting huge additional burdens on young people who came to the United States when they were kids,” says Preston.
Passing the DREAM Act is important for young DREAMers seeking a future in the U.S. And although the Act hasn’t been passed, it has gained many supporters. It’s sparked a long going conversation about immigration and the education of young people in the U.S.