I am writing in response to the recent passage on April 11, 2011 of the DREAM Act in Maryland. This bill, which could be a model for Georgia, extends in-state college tuition rates to undocumented immigrants who graduate from Maryland high schools.
By granting wider access to college education, the DREAM Act allows these immigrants to pursue the American dream in the same way that our ancestors did before us. The growth and prosperity of Georgia, like Maryland, is dependent upon highly educated workers and we therefore need all of the bright young minds that we can get. If we do not educate all of the youths who are already here, then we will have a more disenfranchised population than ever.
The call for broader access to education, however, does not negate the fact that illegal immigration is a serious problem in the Unites States, and specifically here in Georgia. It is true that all illegal immigrants have broken the law, and that their presence can lead to problems. This situation, however, should not paralyze us from being proactive with regards to undocumented individuals.
Since the argument for deportation is neither feasible nor socially just, we should help these immigrants to assimilate and contribute to American society instead of allowing their situation to worsen.
We are all the descendents of immigrants, and it is therefore fitting that we do what is necessary so that undocumented immigrants become members of society who can contribute to Georgia’s future growth and prosperity. If we do not, then we will have a boom of undereducated and unskilled outsiders who will be a hindrance—instead of a boost—to the economy.
The central issue, though, is not immigration, but rather widening access to education. Undocumented youths will stay in the United States whether they attend college or not. But by the time a student graduates from high school, the state has already spent roughly thousands upon thousands of dollars on his or her education.
How can we toss out that investment by preventing access to college for people whose parents brought them into this country years ago? These youths may know no other home than the United States, and they were likely not brought here by their own choice.
Maryland’s passage of the DREAM Act should, at the very least, be an impetus for Georgia to have a dialogue about how a similar act could benefit our state. We must remember that more expansive education is beneficial for the economy of Georgia and thus for everyone. If we help some, then we help all.