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The DREAM Act is Good for Kids and Good for our Country

July 03, 2011 posted by Michelle Rhee

As the former chancellor of Washington, D.C. schools, and as a mom to daughters who attended a public bilingual school, chances are I have come to know some wonderful children who have succeeded in school but who still may not get a shot at the American dream.

These are kids who were brought to this country illegally by their parents or perhaps another relative. They had no choice in entering America, but they were raised as Americans with American dreams. And they did what was expected of them to achieve that dream -- stayed out of trouble, studied hard, got good grades. But as they look forward to college many of them won't be able to pursue the career they want because of the actions of an adult in their lives years ago.

One of the reasons I started StudentsFirst is because for too long our educational policies have focused on adults, not kids. We need to change that and prioritize the needs of children. We have an opportunity to do that with the DREAM Act, legislation that has been debated in Congress for years and which is gaining new momentum. It would allow people brought here as children to be eligible for in-state tuition and, after having gone to college or served in the military, would put them on a path to legal status.

Immigration is not my area of expertise, but I know that the current policy has implications for our education system and isn't working for kids. It's wrong to punish children for the actions of their parents, and we should work to get this legislation enacted into law. On Sunday I am participating in a special edition of ABC's "This Week" focused on this topic. Also participating is Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who recently acknowledged he was an undocumented immigrant brought to the United States from the Philippines as a 12-year-old boy. Vargas spoke of a lifelong fear of being discovered and of having to lie and cover up his past in order to work as a journalist. Along the way, Vargas met educators and employers who became aware of his secret and helped him keep it.

No child should be forced to live in the shadows and hide their identity, nor should any teacher or mentor have to cover up the truth. It also makes no sense for our country to forgo the talents of people like Jose Antonio Vargas. Passing the DREAM Act is not only the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do. America has invested in these successful young people, and as a nation we should benefit from their hard work and success. In the DREAM Act, we have legislation that is good for kids and good for our country. It should become law.

Tomorrow is July 4, a holiday my family and I love. During this patriotic time of year, I can think of no better way to celebrate our heritage as a nation of immigrants than to turn the DREAM Act into a reality.

Topics: Michelle Rhee