A realistic Dream Act for all

October 10, 2011

Only in the bitter partisanship of our moment could Texas Governor Rick Perry be denounced because he expressed compassion. In the most recent Republican presidential debate, Perry was hammered for supporting a Texas law that allows illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition discounts at public universities. Now he has apologized for saying those who oppose helping illegals attend college “have no heart.”

Perry was right the first time! Anyone with a heart should support the idea of allowing illegals to qualify for in-state tuition aid – generically, Dream Acts.

California Governor Jerry Brown just signed his state’s Dream Act, putting the far-right Perry and the far-left Brown on the same side of a major issue. Now, the nation’s two largest states will allow illegal immigrants to attend public universities at subsidized tuition rates.

Other states should too – and it may become a major issue in the 2012 White House race. But there is potential for a political compromise because Dream Acts should be qualified in two important ways:

  1. Allow illegal immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition at public colleges, in return for making English the national language
  2. End minority preferences for illegal immigrants

This grand compromise would extend compassion to illegals, while helping them become productive taxpayers, which is in everyone’s interest. It would head off a looming demand for bilingualism, something that could significantly harm the United States in a decade or two, and make social divisions worse. Exhibit A is Belgium. Demands for bilingualism are more easily headed off now than they will be in a generation.

The grand compromise would prevent the government-gone-wild situation of people who broke U.S. law receiving both subsidized tuition and college admission preferences, while law-abiding native citizens receive no preference. (The notion of granting illegals tuition subsidies, and also granting them special admission preferences, is the sort of thing that sparks Tea Party anger against government.)

Here’s the Dream Acts situation:

* The California legislature just passed a bill allowing illegals (please, no more of the silly euphemism “undocumented arrivals,” as if all that’s happened is a paperwork error) to receive tuition benefits if they have high school or GED degrees, and have paid California taxes. Governor Brown signed the bill Saturday evening.

* Maryland just enacted a Dream Act with provisions similar to California’s. A ballot referendum slated for November 2012 would overturn the law. Maryland is one of the country’s bluest states, reliably Democratic in national contests. Yet polls show Maryland voter support for the Dream Act lukewarm. There is more than a passing chance that bluer-than-blue Maryland will vote down something accepted in blazing-red Texas.

* Congress has voted down, tabled or placed in limbo national Dream Acts many times. President Obama strongly supports the idea, and has said he will talk it up during the 2012 campaign. A 2009 national Dream Act was ridiculed by conservatives, and rightly so, because it contained a clause saying illegals could not be prosecuted for lying to federal agents about their immigration status. That went too far even for many liberals. The current Dream Act before Congress has been tightened and stripped of P.C. nonsense.

There are strong arguments for Dream Acts, where Texas has been a leader, first granting in-state tuition to illegals in 2001.

The strongest argument is that illegals are here – deporting them all would be wrong, even if it were practical – and need educations to better themselves. Rick Perry argues that it costs society less to help illegals graduate from college, then get decent jobs and pay taxes, than to put illegals on welfare and similar programs for long periods. Surely Perry is correct in this.

The Supreme Court has held that illegal immigrant children are entitled to public educations through grade 12; extending this thinking to in-state tuition is logical. In 2009, the Dallas Morning News found that only about 1 percent of students attending Texas public universities are illegals with in-state benefits. That’s a reasonable price for progress.

Americans should be generous, and help illegals attain college educations. We shouldn’t be fools, though, and go out of our way to reward illegals for entering the country unlawfully.

So how about a Reality Dream Act?: qualify illegals for in-state tuition, while denying them minority set-aside privileges and certifying English as the national language. I live in Maryland, and I’d vote for that.

Photo: Students march in favor of immigration reform and the Dream Act through downtown Phoenix, on their way to the state capital May 1, 2007. Officials estimated the number of demonstrators at more than 10,000. REUTERS/Jeff Topping


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How can an illegal alien pay taxes?

He does not have a valid social security number.

Or did he paid taxed under a fake ID name? That is a crime.

Or did he pay taxes on wages earned illegally being not authorized to work?

Then he again broke the law.

Bottom line, if u r a white law abiding citizen middle class u got nothing.

If u r an outlaw, just because there r too many of them, things r fine.

All these laws r just encouraging more illegal immigration.

Can we do better?

Posted by robb1 | Report as abusive

What would be better is if these kids returned to their own countries. That country can pay to educate them. They do have a country and it’s not America. No matter how much these kids think they are American they are not. We will NOT be providing citizenship for these kids. Time to go home kiddies. Pack it up and move on out.

Posted by Desertdiva | Report as abusive

Most immigrants, even if they are here illegally, do legally pay taxes using an “I-10″ number instead of a social security number.

here’s an article about it in case you need extra help understanding it (you seem to):

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story .php?storyId=9615621

Posted by kennnn | Report as abusive

I support Easterbrook’s position on the new Dream Act 100%. 1. It is the all-american ideal: compassion for the hopeless and down-trodden, an example to a world sliding to the dark side, and economic sense to every citizen.
2. As a socially conservative republican (the party of great ones like Teddy Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover),both I and those of shared views must support the Act if for no other reason than to diffuse what would be a bad distraction during the 2012 election.
3. There are so few truly bipartisan issues before our legislature, that neither party should miss the chance to champion this one. Why not pass it in the next few weeks before running out of money and steam — again.
4. Want another progressively conservative idea? Realistically, make State Department spin off the entire
Consular Service (visas, passports, aid to Americans abroad) so it could have its own budget and easy congressional relations. At present the Consular Service, the only really public-serving arm of State (perhaps excepting USIS) is disgracefully overworked, understaffed, and underfunded like a hated step-child every time State and Congress lock horns. That situation impacts directly and detrimentally every legitimate would-be immigrant, foreign visitor or American abroad. It materially affects the thankless work of ICE.

Posted by jacksonone | Report as abusive

Illegal immigrants (or anyone without a social security number) can pay income taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/ 0,,id=222209,00.html). Like any legal citizen, they also pay sales tax on their consumer purchases & property tax on their homes.

According to this study from the American Immigration Council, illegal immigrants paid $11.2 billion in state and local taxes in 2010. Unsurprisingly, $2.7 billion of that was in California & $1.6 billion was in Texas: http://immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/ unauthorized-immigrants-pay-taxes-too (not familiar with org & don’t endorse any other pages, just found study link through Google).

Posted by EdYerkeRobins | Report as abusive

@Rob, anyone can file their income taxes using EIN number. most aliens with no social security number apply for this number that allows them to file their income taxes under their own names.
any American with proper documentation have lost nothing by allowing undocumented aliens participate in this civic responsibility. also, illegal immigration is a civil crime that penalizes individuals seeking economic opportunity. Abraham, the father of monothesim could have been prosecuted for illegal immigration when he left Chaldean of Ur to Cannan. My point is that immigration is an historical fact.

Posted by 0okm9ijn | Report as abusive

Dokm9ijn..do you have a credible site we’re we can go to check out your statement, “most aliens with no social security number apply for this number that allows them to file their income taxes under their own names.” Are you suggesting that most illegal immigrants in our country go out of the their way to obtain an EIN number so they can pay taxes on their earnings? I’m going to call a big “Bulls**t” on that statement unless you can provide verifiable proof.

Posted by xyz2055 | Report as abusive


According to a study from the Immigration Policy Center, households headed by illegal immigrants paid $11.2 billion in state and local taxes in 2010. Unsurprisingly, California accounted for $2.7 billion of this, and Texas $1.6 billion. Their data came from The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, a non-profit, non-partisan research organization. Illegal immigrants also pay sales taxes in their local communities, as do all consumers.

I go back & forth on illegal immigration (my current belief is if you keep your nose clean, you’re OK by me – and if your parents brought you over, how could you control that circumstance?), but the oft-repeated idea that illegal immigrants take & take from local communities without giving anything back is incorrect.

(I’ve tried to post a version of this comment a couple times today with a link to the survey…maybe it’ll go through this time without it. Or maybe Reuters is making me wait since I’m a new user.)

Posted by EdYerkeRobins | Report as abusive

I agree that the term “undocumented [insert noun]” is silly and sacrifices accuracy in the name of political correctness. However, referring to them as “illegals” implies that they themselves are somehow illegal, essentially reducing them to their offense. The actual legal term is “illegal immigrant.”

Posted by dyrnych | Report as abusive

Dokm9ijn..EIN or “Employer Identification Number”? Just looked it up. line 7b of the form asks for either a “SSN, ITIN or EIN”. I’m beginning to believe that you have absolutely no clue what you are talking about.

Posted by xyz2055 | Report as abusive

xyz2055, I think u r absolutely right.

Most likely and illegal-alien student will qualify for tuition/free medical/financial aid/ in a CA state colleges because his own, or his parents income, is basically undisclosed more than non existent, being all of them undocumented.

So (by breaking the law not paying taxes or understating income) they will clog the university system and resources leaving the middle class white children, which parents that pay taxes, with nothing but look for Private expensive alternatives.

I am not against immigration, but again, it is obvious we can do better laws.

Posted by robb1 | Report as abusive

EIN stands for Employer Identification Number. It is designed for businesses.

Don’t politicize math Greg. Taxpayers lose huge sums of money if an “illegal immigrant” or foreign invader is granted in-state tuition rates. In addition, the policy punishes Americans who want to study in a different states, and it forces in-state students to pay more to make up for the lost revenue. Get a student Visa don’t be a foreign invader!

The states that allow this are actually hurting themselves and other states because so many schools are dependent on foreign students’ higher rates of tuition to keep costs lower for in-state students.

Posted by M.C.McBride | Report as abusive

Our “Democratic generosity” is “financially bankrupting” us!

Why should we be SO generous to our Southern neighbors who in actually hate our guts!

Posted by Middleclassman | Report as abusive

Most arguments against illegal immigration begin with the premise that the undocumented don’t pay income taxes, and that they therefore take more in services than they contribute. However, IRS estimates that about 6 million unauthorized immigrants file individual income tax returns each year.[16] Research reviewed by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office indicates that between 50 percent and 75 percent of unauthorized immigrants pay federal, state, and local taxes.[16] Illegal immigrants are estimated to pay in about $7 billion per year into Social Security.[17]

Personal experience having counseled migrant workers is that they pay taxes, and…get no money in return…where does that money go???Into uncle Sam’s pockets. There’s some DATA for you to ponder. I like research because it takes emotions out of it and looks at the issue logically.

Posted by doclil | Report as abusive

its important to note the kids we’re talking about were brought into the USA as very young minors. as a result they usually have no documentation what so ever, foreign or domestic. that said, a ‘Dream Act Student Visa’ is, imo, a fair-minded idea. i’d like to see a pathway to citizenship included as they are not at fault for their ‘illegal’ situation.

these kids grew up here, speak the language just fine (usually without an accent) and can do math at least as well as ‘the rest of us.’ the vast majority have no criminal records themselves, they want to get a quality education, so they can get a quality job, live a quality life (or what passes for one now-a-days) and yes, pay their share of taxes.

remember also, in-state tuition isn’t free.

Posted by lizardgirl | Report as abusive

Garbage. We’re supposed to negotiate our native language as the standard? There is nothing to negotiate. Organizations like fairus and numbersusa are leading the fight to stop this insanity. Get into the fight before our nation is taken away.

Posted by actnow | Report as abusive

Ok, this is plainly extortion to the people by the CA government. Let’s reward individuals who have broken the law with taxpayer monies to go to college basically for free. This makes sense how? It’s not about being fair or compassionate, it’s about doing the right thing by the taxpayers of CA. Period. Why should anyone be forced by taxation to pay for college tuition for individuals who are not legally supposed to be here in the first place? Non sense. And because of his actions in TX, Rick Perry now has no chance of being nominated. Taxpayers in California should be outraged. This is a perfect example as to why CA voters do not approve education/school bonds; they know why the schools need more money, added costs to educate students who shouldn’t be in our school systems to begin with. So I urge every concerned taxpayer in California to instigate & make a RECALL GOV JERRY BROWN vote a reality in 2011/12.

Posted by CArepublic | Report as abusive

@robb1 It’s funny how you are denouncing illegal immigrants when you write things like “If u r an outlaw, just because there r too many of them, things r fine”. Does that make any sense to anyone? Learn how to spell, learn some grammar and learn how to form a coherent thought before you comment on an article that deals with education and undocumented workers.

This countries problems are rooted in our poor education system, not illegal immigrants. The Dream Act is a solid law that will benefit the country. It’s had support from both parties for a decade but, sadly, it will never pass under this president.

Posted by MV53 | Report as abusive

Mr. Easterbrook:

Since 2003, California has been granting in-state tuition subsidies to undocumented students and other U.S. citizens who, for various reasons, cannot establish residency. The Dream Act that Governor Brown signed on Saturday will let the same folks receive state and institutional grants and waivers for the first time. The law was crafted so that no eligible legal citizens’ grants would be jeopardized.

These students live in CA, in many cases know CA as their only home, and speak English. CA colleges and universities do not grant admissions preference on the basis of race. On the same day that he signed the Dream Act, Gov. Brown vetoed a bill that would have overturned a voter ballot initiative disallowing such practices.

So, it seems some states are well on the way towards your “Reality Dream Act.” (And I did vote for that!)

Posted by CAworker | Report as abusive

@MV53 Thank “you” for picking up on my comment. If it is not clear, I meant to express that the magnitude of the illegal immigration phenomena does not imply an automatic legalization.

For your information, considering this is an internet blog, I like to use some “mild” web abbreviation. “You can learn more at:

http://www.webopedia.com/quick_ref/textm essageabbreviations.asp

BTW (By The Way) I have a Master Degree… :)

Posted by robb1 | Report as abusive

Speaking of “Dream Acts,” how about the AMERICAN DREAM, which is now falling apart because of misplaced sympathy for those who do not deserve it ALL AT THE EXPENSE OF AMERICAN CITIZENS.

IF we had an economy that could reasonably afford to bring in foreigners and choose to do so, that is one thing.

However, when the US economy is seriously skirting another Great Depression, I say “charity begins at home.”

With our massive amount of unemployment it is unreasonable for the US government to take American tax dollars and give them to ILLEGALS (who shouldn’t be here in the first place, unless the definition of illegal has changed drastically).

I think it is the decades of misplaced liberalism that has brought us to this point, and it MUST be stopped or we will not survive.

The simple truth is that if we don’t take care of our own citizens first — with respect to jobs, education, housing, and healthcare — you can be damned sure no one else will.

I do not understand the “logic” behind what we are doing as a country, or maybe the “logic” is that extreme liberalism has destroyed our country already, and we aren’t bright enough to figure than out.

We are fools, and as the old saying goes, “fools and their money are soon parted.”

Posted by Gordon2352 | Report as abusive

@MV53… it should be “This country’s problems.” You need the possessive apostrophe instead of the plural word. You should make sure to be grammatically correct when correcting someone else’s grammar.

Posted by Avi58216 | Report as abusive

@robb1 There’s a difference between abbreviation and incoherence. You aren’t commenting on a stupid kitten video on Youtube; you’re commenting on an article about a critical issue facing the country. It’s hard to take your comments/ideas/opinions seriously when you write like that.

Your “masters” professors would facepalm if they saw those comments.

http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/562900  /facepalm_medium.jpg

Posted by MV53 | Report as abusive

@Gordon2352 what “extreme” liberalism are you talking about? Did you even read the article? Is Rick Perry and “extreme” liberal now? Ever since the Reagan era (Reagan gave amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants by the way), the country has been governed in a conservative way. You’re looking for excuses for the country’s problems and the easiest, least intellectual excuse is illegal immigrants. You provide no evidence for your claims and you make ridiculous statements.

Look up some statistics on how many illegal immigrants have been deported over the past couple years. Do some research on the kinds of jobs that illegal immigrants do for dollars a day. People like you who throw out absurd, unfounded statements and use all caps-lock for no reason are more of a problem than illegal immigrants.

Posted by MV53 | Report as abusive

@MV53, duly noted noted.

Sometimes I tend do be intentionally understating, just to stimulate the debate.

Looks like it works though.

@kennnn, perhaps the I-10 is a way to pay taxes, but my original post had two questions. Even if they properly pay taxes on earned income, they were not supposed to work in the first place, being illegal-immigrants. So this “Dream Act” just implies tolerance for accepting work that should be offered to US Citizens in the first place.

My post is not against immigration, is to stress that this law is creating further controversies to a very complex immigration problem.

It seems pretty clear to me, as well for the writer of the article, that a “Dream Act” + minority preference is a bit too much and discriminates against non minority US Citizen.

Posted by robb1 | Report as abusive

How do you justify charging US citizens who live across a state line a higher tuition rate than you would charge illegal aliens? People in other states have paid taxes supporting their local schools and state colleges for their whole lives. We are talking about the parents of the students. Illegal aliens have paid what in taxes? For how many years? I don’t see how you can justify charging illegals less than out of state US citizens.

Posted by AustinG | Report as abusive

What am I missing here? I’ve always considered myself to be a progressive, compassionate person, but I’m having a hard time understanding why an illegal immigrant should receive preferential treatment over others. I certainly don’t think there should be any unwarranted obstacles to attending any college of their choice, but preferential treatment? Why? Is there a piece of this that I’m missing? Should someone who is here illegally be given an advantage over some kid who is here legally, but is having a difficult time affording college tuition? Heck, with the price of college tuition and the unemployment rate as it is, I imagine there are a lot of “legals” who could sure use subsidized tuition rates or “tuition benefits,” whatever that is. Isn’t that discrimination against native born Americans?

No, unless I’m missing something here I’m strongly opposed to this. I don’t get it.

Posted by doggydaddy | Report as abusive

My Dream is to live in a Los Angeles that does not look like Mexico City or Bangladesh or Calcutta. My Dream is to not have all documents at the DMV printed in Spanish or other than English languages. My Dream is to have all who come here to live and work and study, to come here LEGALLY as my wife did (from Germany). For 20 years she carried on her person a card that said LEGAL RESIDENT ALIEN. Her photo on this card was her at age 25. She is now 53. In her 40s she got US citizenship. We got married in Los Angeles one week after she was finally allowed to get on a plane and legally enter the USA. She did not climb over any fence to come here illegally. Our 2 children , now 24 and 19, never got a dime from the govt for tuition or any benefits at all. But illegal aliens do.

Posted by hydrographer | Report as abusive

How does an “illegal” pay California taxes unless he/she is gainfully employed in a position that does not verify citizenship, potentially taking a job away from a taxpaying citizen who is potentially drawing unemployment entitlements that are being paid for by other taxpayers?

More and more I’m starting to believe that being a middle-class, employed, Caucasian, self-sufficient taxpayer is the real minority in America (and the most recent census seems to confirm the continuation of that trend).

Posted by PSmoker | Report as abusive

FYI, Illegal aliens pay taxes using an ITIN number provided by the IRS. Here is the website link with the answers to your questions.

http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0  ,,id=222209,00.html

Most of illegal aliens pay taxes and are not entitled to refunds or any tax benefit, but they do contribute to the economy. If we continue with this apathy towards the illegal students that desire to pursue a higher education in the near future the USA will no longer be a first country nation.
Access to Higher Education among all USA population is the key to remain as a successful nation.

Posted by FBA | Report as abusive

Illegal aliens pay taxes using an ITIN number provided by the IRS. You will find answers to all your questions on the IRS website.
Also illegal aliens are not entitled to refunds, or any tax benefit.
If we continue with this apathy towards the illegal students that desire to pursue a higher education, in the near future the USA will no longer be a first world country because of the lack of education among its citizens and residents.
Higher Education among all USA population is the key to remain as a successful nation.

Posted by FBA | Report as abusive