Economics 101: The DREAM Act Would Be Unaffordable

It is widely expected that the illegal alien amnesty lobby will renew its efforts to enact an all encompassing amnesty in 2009. But even advocates for illegal aliens understand that the nation’s economic crisis may make such an ambitious bill impossible, and that their objectives may have to be pursued incrementally.

At the top of the list of “mini-amnesty” bills likely to come up for consideration is the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. The DREAM Act, which has been introduced every Congress since 2000, would grant amnesty to just about every illegal alien under the age of 30 and anyone who could vaguely be described as a student. In addition to a green card, DREAM Act amnesty recipients would be entitled to taxpayer subsidized in-state tuition benefits and would become eligible for financial aid.

Besides being unjustifiable on its merits, the DREAM Act also faces another challenge: the sorry state of America’s higher education system. In December, the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education gave failing grades to 49 state university systems in terms of their affordability to middle class families. California’s Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi said his state’s public higher education is on a “starvation diet, and each year it becomes weaker and weaker,” and that in addition to cutting educational programs, California may be forced to reduce admissions at a time when applications are increasing.

Nearly every state university system is in similarly dire straits, and many middle class families are left wondering how their own children are going to get the college educations they need. Passage of the DREAM Act would directly affect every middle class American family with kids hoping to attend college without bankrupting the family or starting off in life with crushing debts. Just as state universities are being forced to make cuts in programs and admissions, the DREAM Act would mean that American kids would be forced to compete for seats with illegal aliens, who would then be subsidized with their tax dollars. These former illegal alien students, whose families most often are living in poverty, would also then become eligible to compete for scarce scholarship aid.

Fighting the DREAM Act has always been challenging because many of the direct beneficiaries would be young people who were brought to this country illegally by their parents. FAIR has always emphasized that, in addition to indirectly rewarding the illegal behavior of the parents, the legislation punishes the innocent children of citizens and legal immigrants by denying them opportunities. Given the crisis gripping America’s higher education system,? it will be critical to stress to lawmakers that the DREAM Act will compound the difficulties many hard-working families already face in ensuring their own kids get the educational opportunities they need.

December 2008/January 2009