The Border Security and Immigration Reform Act (BSIRA) of 2018 would grant Dreamers contingent non-immigrant status with a subsequent path to citizenship. This is a positive step forward but Congress must do better than what is contained in BSIRA. AACC has joined the other major higher education associations in a letter that expresses appreciation for Congressional efforts to address this issue, but notes that the resulting provisions fall short of a satisfactory solution for Dreamers. The following are some of our specific concerns with these provisions.
First and foremost, the path to permanent legal status and eventual citizenship laid out in BSIRA is too lengthy, costly, and cumbersome, potentially resulting in few Dreamers reaching that goal. In fact, the Cato Institute estimates that BSIRA would only provide a path to citizenship for 18% of the full Dreamer population. While the bill would provide immediate relief to many DACA-eligible people through contingent non-immigrant status, this must be paired with a straightforward path to citizenship.
Community colleges support minimum requirements and the concept that earning citizenship may entail further education, work, or military service. However, granting a path to citizenship to Dreamers should be done mainly to reflect the reality of their situation: they grew up in this country, consider it their home, and make positive contributions to our society. They are citizens in every way but for their legal status. For this reason, a merit-based point system in which Dreamers compete for a limited number of green cards is inappropriate. This is especially true of a system that potentially disadvantages associate degree and certificate holders vis-à-vis Dreamers with more advanced degrees.
For the same reasons, any path to legal status should not be contingent on future appropriations for a border wall, as it is in BSIRA. AACC has no position on the border wall, but it is not right to link the Dreamers’ fate to its future funding. Finally, as past supporters of extending the DACA program to older individuals, AACC supports elimination of the provision denying legal status to Dreamers who were older than 31 in 2012, in addition to other steps to broaden the number of Dreamers covered by the legislation.
Community colleges strongly support solving the predicament faced by Dreamers in a comprehensive, bipartisan fashion. AACC has long supported the Dream Act and believes that passing that bill or the Uniting and Securing America Act, both of which enjoy bipartisan support, would be the best way forward. In the immediate circumstance, however, should BSIRA progress, we hope that any final legislation would address the concerns laid out above.