North Carolina Would Benefit From the Dream Act


I love helping young people pursue their dreams. Prior to entering the legislature, I spent sixteen years running the Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate program. Over that time period, 97.5% of our students graduated from high school and went on to post-secondary education. It felt like we were fulfilling dreams every single day.

Unfortunately, there was a small group of those bright and talented young people who bought into the American Dream with their whole hearts, but whom America has yet to fully embrace. These students did their best to live up to the promise that if you do well in school and stay out of trouble, you can be anything you want to be in the United States. And although the young people have done their part, the United States has deferred their dream because they are undocumented immigrants.

Dreams deferred are broken dreams. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was an executive order signed by President Barack Obama in 2014. It offered 787,580 young Americans – 60,000 in North Carolina alone – a brief glimpse of living the American dream by providing them with work permits, drivers’ licenses, and relief from deportation.

This fall, the Trump Administration initiated the end of DACA without providing an alternative. The futures of these young people now rest with Congress. Unfortunately, our Congressional leaders have repeatedly failed to pass any immigration laws helpful to these young people or their families. The Dream Act, which would offer them a path to citizenship, remains just that: only a dream without Congressional action.

As one of the greatest nations on earth, we have risen together as Americans. If we can claim any exceptionalism, it is because of an implicit moral promise to protect and lift up the most vulnerable in our country, including the youngest among us. DACA was such a promise. Now that we have broken our promise, we must pass The Dream Act for both moral and economic reasons.

A Washington Post – ABC News poll taken in September found that 86% of respondents believed the government should find a pathway to legalization for undocumented young people – a path that allows them to remain in the country where they have been raised and to which they have contributed.

The economic impact of legalizing these young people would be huge. The Center for American Progress recently reported that In North Carolina alone, passing the Dream Act would bump our annual Gross Domestic Product by more than $590 million per year. It would add at least $281 billion to the U.S. GDP over a decade.

Although the economic benefits are significant, we should pass the Dream Act because, as a great nation, we should help these young people become the Americans they dream of rather than sending them into the shadows of our country.

My former students who became DACA eligible are working in health care, education, business, and many other fields. They have integrated into our country, and we are benefitting from their contributions.

As with most immigration policy, the real change here has to come through Congress. But from my view here in the state, all North Carolinians would benefit from Washington stepping up to make dreams come true.

This column was originally published in the News of Orange.