By Sandra Muñoz
What type of job comes to mind when you think about undocumented workers? If you instantly think gardener, busboy, house cleaner, or maybe cook, then you are very 1999. There is a whole new generation of undocumented workers that are educated, young, technologically savvy and more American than apple pie. There are roughly 1.8 million DREAMers in the United States as the younger generation of undocumented Americans are called. DREAMers are generally those who:
- are under the age of 31;
- entered the United States before age 16;
- have lived continuously in the country for at least five years;
- have not been convicted of a felony or a significant misdemeanor or three misdemeanors;
- are currently in school, graduated from high school, earned a GED, or served in the military.
The Los Angeles Times recently reported that more and more DREAMers are opting for self-employment as, for example, graphic designers in order to lawfully earn a living.
DREAMers are also earning college degrees in subject matters as diverse as sociology, biology, and the law.
And why wouldn’t they? For many DREAMers, the United States is the only country they know. They are fluent in English, assimilated to United States culture, and should be embraced as the new face of the American dream. And yet there is a significant portion of the population who reject them and refer to them pejoratively as anchor babies.
This short-sighted view does not make economic sense. Since 1982, when the United States Supreme Court held that undocumented immigrant children have a constitutional right to a free public K-12 education, our country has invested in their education. DREAMers who reside in California already pay in-state tuition fees and have access to private and public financial aid for state colleges and universities if they meet certain requirements.
Rather than reject and in some cases deport these DREAMers, shouldn’t we as a society embrace and applaud them? Here is a population of American-educated youth who are fully integrated into our society, who desire to work, earn an honest living, and advance the interests of our society. Why should their right to work be temporary or up for debate every few years in a volatile United States Congress? Granting DREAMers permanent residency and a quick path to citizenship is the right thing to do – not just for them, but for everyone.