Last week, The Crimson reported on the University’s lobbying effort in support of the DREAM Act in light of the upcoming presidential election. That the University is heavily involved in the debate over this legislation should not come as a surprise to anyone. Harvard has been entwined with the debate ever since the DREAM Act rose to prominence. In fact, Harvard played an essential role in bringing the DREAM Act into the spotlight. First introduced in 2001, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act languished in the halls of Congress until 2010, when the case of Eric Balderas, an undocumented Harvard student facing deportation, made national headlines. Ultimately, Balderas was not deported, but his case imbued the debate with a sense of urgency, and soon after the DREAM Act came within a few votes of overcoming a filibuster in the Senate and becoming law.
Even before the Balderas case, Harvard expressed support for this legislation, which would offer a work permit and a road to eventual citizenship upon graduation to undocumented students who arrived in the United States as children. President Drew Faust has been vocal in her support of the DREAM Act, showing her support through her signing of a letter urging Congress to pass this piece of legislation. In the past, The Crimson has praised the University and President Faust for their advocacy on behalf of this bill and the students it is designed to help. When Senator Scott Brown attacked Harvard for its support of undocumented immigrants, The Crimson defended the University and its position. The University has a duty to support its students no matter what their legal status, and thankfully, the University has delivered.
Although President Obama’s executive order issued this summer implements several provisions of the DREAM Act, it does so only for a period of two years. The President’s deferred action program has offered hundreds of thousands of undocumented students across the nation, and a few here at Harvard, a respite from fears of deportation and renewed hope of being able to work legally after graduation. However, the deferred action program is only a temporary measure, and the University should not be placated by its implementation. Harvard should continue to advocate on behalf of the DREAM Act, so that a permanent solution for our undocumented peers can be enacted.
This is an issue that affects not only undocumented students, but the entire nation. America would be ill-served by a generation of immigrants denied access to a college education due to their legal status. Our current policy denies America the potential future earnings (and tax revenues) of millions of undocumented minors who stand to benefit from the DREAM Act’s passage.
This is not to say we would consider DREAM Act’s passage the end of immigration reform. Even the DREAM Act itself is only a stopgap measure. It is a bill that would offer to a path to citizenship for these deserving students while the country continues to debate what comprehensive immigration reform would look like. Even if the DREAM Act were to pass and all undocumented students given a work permit and a path to citizenship, these students would still face other challenges caused by our country’s broken immigration laws. Many of these students, including those at Harvard, would still have to worry about their parents or other relatives being deported, but until the fight for comprehensive immigration reforms, we urge Harvard to keep up the good work.