Guest Editorial/Salvador Carranza - LUChA and Latino Education Council
A DREAM Deferred
By Salvador Carranza
Almost half a century after Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln
Memorial on August 28, 1963; his words still reverberate with us, perhaps stronger than ever, because
his dream still hasn’t been fully fulfilled. As we celebrate once again his legacy this month, it is
important to recognize how, for many in this country, his dream is still being deferred. The core
message of his speech was to challenge people to be true to the emblems of our country — the
Constitution, the Bill of Rights, our moral teachings that “all men are created equal” and have a right to
“freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” For many of our immigrant families, and especially our
immigrant children, these “self-evident truths” and MLKs Dream still do not apply.
Under current law, 50-65,000 students graduate from American high schools each year who have
been in the U.S. more than five years but who face limited prospects for completing their education or
working legally in the United States because they were originally brought here by parents lacking
immigration status. Among those prevented from completing their education are valedictorians, honors
students, award winners, class presidents and student leaders. For political and ideological reasons, most Republicans in Congress
and a few Democrats have continually rejected approving the DREAM Act, which seeks to lift the threat of deportation for these children
and grant them the right to be the Americans that they already are in all but in name. These students are culturally American, having
grown up here and often have little attachment to their country of birth. And the vast majority are bicultural and fluently bilingual, skills
that are vital to our country in a global society. These young people deserve a fresh start, both in fairness to them and in our national
The DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) would amend the Illegal Immigration Reform and
Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 to repeal the denial of an unlawful alien's eligibility for higher-education benefits based on state
residence unless a U.S. national is similarly eligible without regard to such state residence. (Congressional Research Service). It would
also authorize the secretary of Homeland Security to cancel the removal of these children on account of their undocumented status, and
to adjust these individuals to conditional permanent resident status. It would also grant them an eventual path to U.S. citizenship. The
DREAM Act, as was introduced in the last session of Congress, would also grant these rights to those who have graduated from high
school, stayed out of trouble, and plan to attend college or serve in the U.S. Military for at least two years.
Granting legal resident status to these youth through the DREAM Act would:
• Have a Positive Fiscal Impact: The DREAM Act would dramatically reduce dropout rates, with resulting substantial savings in
criminal justice costs and use of public benefits, and it would sharply increase the amount of taxes paid by those who qualify. These
fiscal contributions will pay back the educational investment within 3-4 years by conservative estimates, and thereafter taxpayers will
continue to profit from the DREAM Act for decades to come. Conservative estimates from LULAC show that passing the DREAM Act
would produce additional tax revenue of $13 billion through reduced public spending and increased tax contributions. The
Congressional Budget Office reported in December, just before the DREAM Act was voted in the Senate, that the DREAM Act would
create at least $2.3 Billion in revenue over the next ten years, and drastically cut the deficit by $1.4 billion. In a time of deficits and
economic challenges for our nation, it is unconscionable to ignore these potential contributions because of the politics of fear.
• Be Fair: The DREAM Act is recognition of the fact that the young people at issue did not have a say in the decision to come to the U.S.,
and it is wrong to hold them fully liable for an immigration status that was derived from their parents. They should not be legally
precluded from the achievements that they are able to earn by their own talent and hard work in the land where they were raised. The
DREAM Act would give them the same opportunity to excel as their classmates ... no more and no less.
• Be a Resource: A disproportionate number of DREAM Act young people have excelled in our schools, and they are poised to repay our
investment in their elementary and secondary education. They are a willing and ready American-educated workforce, many of whom
want desperately to give back to their communities. Alan Greenspan and other economists and demographers tell us that we face a
long-term labor crunch that threatens our economy in the decades to come, including shortages in teaching, nursing, the service sector
and other occupations. DREAM Act beneficiaries can be part of the solution.
• Reward Character: The most compelling reason to pass the DREAM Act is the young people themselves. They are survivors, almost
all of whom have overcome the odds of growing up in tough neighborhoods and impoverished immigrant families to remain in school
and to succeed. Nothing could be more American. These young people deserve to be rewarded for doing the right thing, not punished.
In the last session of the 111th Congress, the House passed the DREAM ACT by a margin of 216 to 198. So, with so many compelling,
pragmatic and common sense reasons, why didn’t the DREAM Act pass in the Senate? The main reason, in my view, was political and
the minority party’s ability, in this case Republicans, to block and stall any bill they don’t like. And due to the virulent anti-immigrant
rhetoric of the past few years, there was significant erosion in the support from GOP Senators from the vote for Comprehensive
Immigration Reform in 2007 when 12 Republican Senators voted favorably. This time, only three GOP Senators voted Yes on the
DREAM Act, and six Democrats voted No. So needing 60 votes to pass, the DREAM Act was defeated 55 to 41. If half of the Republican
Senators that voted Yes in 2007 and half of the Democrats that voted no this time around had voted for the DREAM Act, it would be law
today. And that is very sad.
Going back to the inspiring words of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech, his most compelling dream was that his four children would
“… one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Thousands of
the brightest kids in our nation, who happen to be undocumented, are today not being judged by the amazing content of their character,
but by the fact that, by no fault of their own, they lack a little piece of paper that allows them to be considered American citizens
MLKs “I Have a Dream” speech was a crusade to challenge people of all colors and religions to “rise up and live out the true meaning
of our creed (as a nation).” It was a crusade to challenge their conscience to live up to the values and beliefs that we say we hold dear
as a nation. Our fight for the rights of immigrants and our immigrant children is also a crusade to vindicate the true meaning of our
Constitution and to honor MLK’s Dream. Perhaps the “Dream” has been deferred once again for our children, but I believe, as MLK
believed, that one day we shall overcome injustice, and once again be able to stand all together as one, without distinction to creed,
color or immigrant status. Our Dream has been deferred but it will never die. Si Se Puede!