One Can Dream (Editorial)

The U.S. Senate late last week delayed a vote on what's known as the Dream Act, which seeks to legalize undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. The Senate is expected to take up the measure, which the House approved on Wednesday, next week.

The act seeks to provide a path to citizenship to young people who, through no fault of their own, are illegal aliens, having been brought to this country by their parents.

It proposes doing this by regularizing the status of these young people if they meet certain conditions. It applies to illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. before they were 16, have been in the country for five years and have no criminal record. In addition, they must attend two years of college in the U.S. or serve in the military for two years before they receive legal status.

At one time, the act had bipartisan support. No longer. The sea change in American electoral politics means that issues regarding illegal aliens, no matter how measured or reasonable, are guaranteed to provoke anger and fear. That fact was emphasized to us when Arkansas Business, in reporting on the employment of immigrants in the state, could find only one employer willing to be interviewed.

Senate approval of the Dream Act is not expected. This reflexive opposition to the act is a shame. It is also economically short-sighted.

The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce has no official stand on the Dream Act. But Randy Zook, chamber president and CEO, does have a "personal point of view."

"I would personally encourage people to support it," Zook said. "I think it's a rational, reasonable position. We need all the talent in this country we can find. And it would be pretty short-sighted, I think, to try to limit opportunities for young people who are trying to play by the rules."

A year ago, Zook and Jay Chesshir, president and CEO of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, wrote a guest commentary for Arkansas Business citing the need for "rational, comprehensive reform on the federal level."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has consistently called for comprehensive immigration reform.

Although the Dream Act is not comprehensive, it is a step in the right direction, the direction of helping young immigrants "get right with the law" by educating themselves or serving in the U.S. armed forces.

We hope the Senate sees past the fear and looks toward the future.