According to research from the University of California at Irvine, the countries that send the most undocumented immigrants to the United States also send the largest numbers of legal immigrants. Following Mexicans and Central Americans, Filipinos, Indians and Koreans round out the top five. The communities that the Dream Act would help don’t all speak Spanish.
2. If we make it tough for these students and their families, they will self-deport.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney supports self-deportation — the idea that stricter immigration laws will make life for undocumented immigrants so unbearable that they will leave. Arizona, which allows local police officers to make routine stops of anyone they suspect is undocumented, has embraced this view.
But self-deportation is unrealistic. Young immigrants’ lives are rooted in the United States. They speak English. They go to American schools. Alongside their U.S.-born peers, they watch “SpongeBob SquarePants,” read “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games,” and love Lady Gaga. While they may have had little choice in their parents’ decision to migrate, they are here to stay.
Unsurprisingly, few of America’s 11 million undocumented immigrants have lined up to leave. The Pew Research Center estimates that the number of Mexicans here is declining, but to my knowledge there is no data on Dreamers returning to their countries of origin.
3. All Dream Act students came here illegally.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, up to 45 percent of undocumented immigrants entered the United States legally with valid visas. Still, after someone overstays a visa, U.S. immigration law makes becoming a legal immigrant difficult. Without a “hardship waiver,” immigrants must return to their country of origin to reapply for visas. And upon departure, they risk incurring bars on reentry of up to 10 years. This process encourages undocumented people to remain in the shadows — and encourages those who do leave the country after overstaying their visas to reenter illegally.
Several years ago, I met a young Korean man in New York who has been in the United States since he was a baby; his parents came here for college, then overstayed their student visas. Though he graduated from college and dreamed of being a federal judge, he works in his parents’ grocery store partly because he can’t apply for a white-collar job without papers. Because he is 32, he would not benefit from the Obama administration’s new policy, which covers people under 30.