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Student Association keeps neutral stance on DREAM Act

As enthusiasm for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) grows on a national level, Binghamton University’s Student Association is eliminating its efforts to become involved in the issue.

The DREAM Act is a proposed legislation that would allow individuals who have entered the United States illegally before the age of 16 to gain a legal status by completing at least two years of education in a school of higher education or participate in the military for at least two years.

In a conference call Thursday, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano voiced her support for the legislation.

“[The] immigration system does not work the way it ought to,” Napolitano said. “The laws themselves need to be updated.” She added that the DREAM Act would help make the nation’s immigration laws more relevant.

Presenting the bill for students and young people, Napolitano said that by legalizing individuals with “brains and commitment to our country,” the bill would allow those individuals to contribute more to their community.

The White House’s associate director of the Office of Public Engagement, Stephanie Valencia, noted that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that “the DREAM Act represents an opportunity to expand [the recruiting] pool, to the advantage of military recruiting and readiness,” in a post on the White House blog.

Valencia also appealed to the emotional side of this issue, providing an individual example of the benefits of the act.

“We need the DREAM Act, so David Cho, who graduated from high school with a 3.9 GPA, plays seven instruments and is the drum major at UCLA, can live his dream of serving the United States in the Air Force,” she said.

In what seemed to be an effort to document stories such as David Cho’s, a B-Line message was sent out asking students that if they were “someone who will be benefiting from the passing of the DREAM Act, let us know so we can share your story.”

But on Sunday, Dec. 5, Student Association President Jared Kirschenbaum stated that the executive board as a group had decided not to support the act.

“I originally decided on my own accord to put something through in support of the DREAM Act because I have strong personal opinions about it,” Kirschenbaum said. But he said he and other members of the SA executive board decided that it would not be in the interest of the SA to continue with the initiative.

“As president, you sometimes have to separate personal opinion from the interests of the organization,” Kirschenbaum said. “The DREAM Act is a contentious political issue, and since we are a non-profit student organization it gets very hairy for us to endorse any political position.”

Kirschenbaum declined to specify who was involved in the discussions leading to the SA’s change of course.

Napolitano said that the act would allow for her agency to more efficiently execute the law by separating individuals who have entered the country through no fault of their own and those that might pose a threat to public safety.

In this way, she reasoned, the act would allow her agency to better prioritize in removing criminal immigrants and more effectively deport those “who are most culpable.”

“All applicants must go through a rigorous background check … nobody who poses a threat to public safety will be able to adjust their immigration status,” Napolitano explained.

The Secretary noted that the act would help our economy improve, pointing to a study done by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and would also help to strengthen our military by increasing its recruiting pool.

The CBO study on the DREAM Act estimated that the bill would reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion over a period of time from 2011 to 2020 and raise $2.4 billion in revenue over that same time. But the study also estimated that “the bill would increase projected deficits by more than $5 billion in at least one of the four consecutive 10-year periods starting in 2021.”

Thomas Dublin, a history professor at BU who teaches a course on immigration and ethnicity in American society, supports the act.

It could make a significant contribution to “secure the talents and contributions of these individuals in a secure and permanent way for the greater public good,” Dublin said. “Those undocumented children and adults, workers and students, live in the shadows of American society, not able to be full participants in society as they live in fear of possible deportation.”