The California DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) has become an important element of immigration issues, even a topic in a recent presidential debate. Analysis of the DREAM Act made its way to the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum on Wednesday, Oct. 17 for a panel discussion. The panel, which was moderated by members of the Claremont Journal for International Affairs, consisted of Nassim Arzani and Nick Schulz. Arzani, an immigration lawyer from Riverside, addressed the complexities of immigration from a legal perspective. Schulz, from the Washington, D.C.-based think tank American Enterprise Institute, focused on the economic impact of immigration in the past, present and future.
Arzani outlined the current laws and legal procedures for immigration, citing the process of deferred action, which temporarily shields immigrants against deportation. Arzani pointed out a surprising statistic regarding deferred action: Of the 1.4 million eligible for deferred action, there have been 179,000 applicants and only 4,600 approved. Arzani referred to it as a "lengthy, strict process," adding "it is hardly welcoming immigrants with a green card." Comparing the current deferred-action policy with the proposed DREAM Act, Arzani said she is in favor of the act despite its flaws, explaining, "The DREAM Act gives rise to fraud and needs more scrutiny."
Schulz focused on how human capital is essential for economic growth, explaining that skilled immigrants greatly enhance the labor force of the United States. With copious statistics to support his argument, Schulz outlined how immigrants are 30% more likely to start a new business, and that 25% of science and technology companies have at least one immigrant founder, concluding that "immigrants have a disproportionate economic impact, changing the shape of the economy.". In reference to the DREAM Act, Schulz pointed out how strict immigration policy deters skilled immigrants (such as students) from coming to the United States and from staying in the U.S., thus reducing human capital. He explained that "the nature of our economy allows people to come to the United States and make something of their lives." Schulz concluded that different immigration policy, as proposed in the DREAM Act, is "a low-cost method of dealing with the country's debt and deficit."
The California DREAM Act, which allows the children brought to the United States under the age of 16 without proper documentation, the opportunity to apply for student financial aid benefits. The act's two parts were signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011.
The panel was well received by those in attendance, including a large number of community members. "The Ath talk provided unique insights on the DREAM Act," said audience member Priscilla Hsu '13. "However, it would have been interesting to have a dissenting opinion on the panel to spark further discussion." Although Arzani and Schulz support the DREAM Act, both provided a thought- provoking dichotomy regarding this important piece of legislation.