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Right to Dream Examines Immigration, Supports DREAMers

Written by Featured Organization on 25 March 2013.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – In Right to Dream: Immigration Reform and America’s Future, University of Arkansas sociologist William A. Schwab examines the evidence and calls for passage of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, better known as the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act would provide residency to undocumented young people brought to this country as children. It would allow such young people to attend college with in-state tuition and to work and travel freely. It would open a path to citizenship to those who complete their education or military service.

Schwab analyzed the arguments for and against the DREAM Act and immigration reform and concluded that “the critics have gotten it wrong.” He met scores of young DREAMers and was impressed by their intelligence, hard work and motivation.

“When you know their stories,” he writes, “you have to ask yourself, ‘We are thinking about deporting them? We don’t want these remarkable young people to be part of our communities and citizens of our nation?’”

In the foreword to Right to Dream, G. David Gearhart, chancellor of the University of Arkansas, calls denying higher education to DREAMers bad public policy.

“It is a waste of human capital to ensure them access to K-12 education, but so completely frustrate their ability to access higher education, all but ensuring their permanent marginalization,” Gearhart wrote.

In the first five chapters of Right to Dream, Schwab addresses the common arguments against the DREAM Act, and the book’s concluding chapter includes a succinct response to critics, based on his study:

“We don’t hold undocumented children accountable for the behavior of their parents,” he writes. “The undocumented do not come to this country for educational benefits but for the economic opportunities. They pay more in taxes than they consume in services, and they add more than $1 trillion in buying power to our economy. They embrace our values. They are upwardly mobile. They are learning English faster than previous waves. They are assimilating rapidly and blending into our ‘melting pot’ nation.”

Schwab brings a sociologist‘s perspective to understanding immigration and notes that undocumented immigrants “are coming to this country for the same reasons as past generations—for freedom, liberty, and a better life. Simply, we are repeating the process that built this nation. And as in previous waves, we benefit because we need their education, skills, entrepreneurship, and manpower to grow our economy and tax base.”

Schwab documents the example and inspiration of the Civil Rights Movement on the movement to enact the DREAM Act. DREAMers have followed “the path of small victories” to build bit by bit towards a big victory, as they learned from the actions of Rosa Parks and others. They have employed non-violent tactics, such as the use of “dilemma actions,” strategically planned events, Schwab writes, “that placed government officials and politicians in a dilemma in which any response advanced the movement’s goals.”

Although undocumented immigrants faced the possibility of arrest and deportation each time they spoke out in public, they came forward. Their actions put a human face on the undocumented people who had lived in the shadows, and Schwab writes, “the public saw these young people as Americans in every way except their immigration status.”

Video of Schwab speaking about the DREAM Act is available. He speaks about why he supports the DREAM Act: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqHeGezaMfQ&feature=player_embedded. He discusses policy changes to help undocumented young people: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxdrW92Nqbg&feature=player_embedded.

Right to Dream is published by the University of Arkansas Press. For more information: http://www.uapress.com/titles/sp13/schwab.html or http://righttodreambook.uark.edu.

Schwab is University Professor of sociology in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. Gearhart is the chancellor of the University of Arkansas. •