News & Politics

The Shocking Cost of Legalizing DREAMers

Protesters holds a sign in support of dreamers in Portland, Ore., on September 10, 2017, during a demonstration against a rally by right-aligned Patriot Prayer supporters led by Joey Gibson. (Photo by Alex Milan Tracy)(Sipa via AP Images)

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is saying that legalizing more than 2 million young people under the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM) would cost citizens nearly $26 billion over the next decade and lead to 80,000 additional immigrants being eligible to enter the U.S. under chain immigration.

Washington Times:

Immigrant-rights activists have argued that legalizing Dreamers would be a financial boon to the country, but the CBOand the Joint Committee on Taxation suggested otherwise, saying that while they would pay somewhat higher taxes in to the government, they would take far more out of it.

The findings could be a blow to activists who have demanded the bill be included in any year-end spending deal. Congress already struggles to find offsets for other spending, and digging a hole more than $25 billion deeper could be difficult.

“In total, CBO and JCT estimate that changes in direct spending and revenues from enacting [the bill] would increase budget deficits by $25.9 billion over the 2018-2027 period,” the budget analysts said in their analysis.

The CBO said there are between 11 million and 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. now, and some 3.25 million of those would be eligible for the Dream Act.

Under the bill, anyone brought to the U.S. as a minor who has worked toward an education and kept a generally clean criminal record could apply for immediate legal status. Most of those would go on to be able to apply for citizenship eventually.

Of the 3.25 million eligible, about 2 million would actually apply, the CBO said, and 1.6 million of them would earn status over the next decade. Roughly 1 million would go on to become citizens within the decade, allowing them to sponsor other relatives to enter the U.S., analysts predicted.

Even people who can’t speak English would be able to qualify for tentative legal status because the educational requirements can be done in Spanish, the CBO said.

That $26 billion is the difference between what the government pays out and what DREAMers pay in taxes.

About the only argument that works for me is that children should not have to pay for the crimes of their parents. That has been a fundamental tenet of America since its founding. Children brought here at a young age illegally cannot be held accountable for a decision that was not theirs to make.

It’s a complicated issue and not as cut and dried as people on both sides present it to be. Nor should anyone pretend they have all the answers. Questions about the parents’ status, taxes, what benefits DREAMers should be eligible for, and the “chain immigration” problem defy easy answers — at least, answers consistent with our values and founding principles as a nation.

We are a nation of immigrants. And we are a nation of laws. Surely there’s a way to bridge those two vital concepts and find an equitable way to treat the children of illegal immigrants.