The Dream Act will soon face another important milestone, this time in New Jersey.
Congress first defeated the DREAM Act, an acronym for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, in 2001 when Illinois Senator Richard Durbin originally introduced it. During the ensuing 12 years, Congress has beaten back the DREAM Act in all its multiple manifestations. For more than a dozen years, opponents successfully argued that the DREAM Act represented amnesty. DREAM provided beneficiaries with six-year temporary legal status and, if they acquired a degree or served in the military, an opportunity to become a permanent resident.
Gradually, however, states introduced their own Dream Act versions which offer discounted instate university tuitions and financial aid to aliens. States, including Texas, California, Illinois, Utah, Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico, New York, Washington, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Maryland and Minnesota, have been approving Dream Acts at a rapid pace. The Maryland Dream Act won 59 percent of the vote on a November 2012 statewide ballot.
Even though New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has vowed that he won’t sign the Tuition Equality Act, more commonly referred to as the Dream Act, activists are pressuring him to get on board with a revised bill that the state assembly drafted to match the previously passed state Senate bill. Under the amended legislation, illegal aliens who graduated from high school in New Jersey after attending for at least three years would be eligible to pay the lower instate tuition rates at public colleges and universities. They would also be eligible for financial aide which Christie opposes. [“NJ DREAM Act Immigrant Tuition Measure Gets Closer to Christie’s Desk,” by Matt Friedman, The Star Ledger, December 12, 2013]
Political analysts consider Christie a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate. Since the GOP’s conventional but faulty wisdom is that the Latino vote is crucial, Christie could bow to the considerable pressure he’ll face from the Hispanic lobby.
The DREAM Act, federal or state, expands the pool of incoming applicants and is horrible for aspiring American high school students who would have to compete with more candidates for a fixed number of freshman seats. Graduating U.S. seniors already have to contend with ever-increasing tuition, rising costs of room, board and textbooks, more international students, and after graduating, the softest job market in years. Adding illegal immigrant students into that challenging mix is unfair to American kids who have played by the rules and their families who have encouraged them to excel.
The Tuition Equality Act must pass the full Assembly before it will be forwarded for final action to Christie’s desk.