Excerpts from the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center’s report, Unleash the DREAM: End the Colossal Waste of Young Immigrant Talent:How much talent can the United States afford to waste?
Some 65,000 students graduate high school each year to face bleak prospects regardless of their talent and potential to significantly contribute to the United States.
Without a path to legal status, their principal options are dead-end jobs. They live in fear of deportation. They cannot drive or work legally. They are ineligible for most college scholarships and loans and, in most states, in-state tuition.
Consequently, many drop out of higher education due to prohibitively high costs.
There is a promising fix, however. DREAM Act legislation in Congress would offer these students a path to legal status and higher education. Beyond helping deserving youth improve their prospects for prosperous lives, the bill would do much more for the nation as a whole.
The DREAM Act would stop the colossal brain drain that occurs when ambitious young people are deported or blocked from achieving their full potential as doctors, scientists, academics, entrepreneurs, military officers — and in other careers that require higher education. Were their talents unleashed, these new Americans will earn, spend and invest more in the U.S. economy. At a time of increasing demand for highly skilled “knowledge workers” in a global economy, the legalization of bicultural and multilingual youth will pay enormous dividends.
Trail of Dreams
Felipe Matos, Gaby Pacheco, Carlos Roa, and Juan Rodriguez are examples of the talent offered by such youth. In the tradition of the civil-rights movement, these students [walked] 1,500-miles from Miami to Washington, D.C., to promote the DREAM Act and other immigration reform. They dubbed the march “Trail of Dreams.” Though their life histories vary, they share common goals:
"We are four students from Florida who were brought to the United States by our families when we were young. This is the only country we have known as home. We have the same hopes and dreams as other young people, and have worked hard to excel in school and contribute to our communities. But because of our immigration status, we’ve spent our childhoods in fear and hiding, unable to achieve our full potential.
"We walk in order to share our stories and to call on our leaders to fix the system that forces people like us into the shadows, stripping us of the opportunity to participate meaningfully in society.”