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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of this bill.
There is no indication that we are closer to resolving the various interconnected problems of immigration that is roiling our country. I am disappointed that Congress has failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform. It is doubtful that Congress will pass such a bill this year, which is why I am glad the House is at least moving this very important and compassionate legislation.
As I have said on many occasions, I oppose illegal immigration and I am concerned about the influx of illegal immigrants into America. I am also concerned about the lack of effective border enforcement. We need to ensure that our first priority is securing our borders by providing additional tools and resources to those who patrol the border, and the 111th Congress has provided more funding for the Customs and Border Patrol than any other Congress in history. I believe we need to fully and effectively enforce our immigration laws, and I oppose blanket amnesty for those who have illegally come into the United States.
Unlike an earlier version of this legislation, the bill before us today does not automatically grant lawful permanent resident (LPR) status to anyone covered by the bill. Under the new House bill, conditional nonimmigrants must meet the bill's college or military service requirement after 5 years, at which point they must file a new application to extend their status for 5 additional years. Only after 10 years as a conditional nonimmigrant may a DREAM Act beneficiary apply for legal permanent resident status.
The bill also charges DREAM Act participants a significant surcharge of $525 upon filing an initial application for conditional nonimmigrant status and an additional surcharge of $2,000 when they apply to extend their status at year 5. Previous versions of the DREAM Act--including the most recent Senate bill--had no such surcharges. Additionally, the bill does not change the current federal restriction on in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants. Finally, only individuals who were brought to this country by their parents before they were 15 years old and who have been here at least five years and are age 29 or younger at the time of enactment are even eligible to apply for conditional nonimmigrant status under the legislation. Thus, this bill provides no amnesty and is most definitely not a ``free ride'' for illegal immigrants.
H.R. 6497 would provide an opportunity for students who grew up in the United States a chance to contribute to our country's well-being by serving in the U.S. Armed Forces or pursuing a higher education. Passing this bill is the right thing to do--morally and economically. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimates that the bill will reduce deficits by approximately $1.4 billion over the next ten years. But that figure alone underestimates the enormous benefits to taxpayers because the CBO and JCT do not take into account the increased income that DREAM Act participants will earn due to their legal status and educational attainment. It is estimated that the average DREAM Act participant will make $1 million over his or her lifetime simply by obtaining legal status, which will bring hundreds of thousands of additional dollars per individual for federal, state, and local treasuries.
Indeed, as the Wall Street Journal editorialized last month,
``The Dream Act would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrant children who attend college or join the military. ..... Restrictionists dismiss the Dream Act as an amnesty that rewards people who entered the country illegally. But the bill targets individuals brought here by their parents as children. What is to be gained by holding otherwise law-abiding young people, who had no say in coming to this country, responsible for the illegal actions of others? The Dream Act also makes legal status contingent on school achievement and military service, the type of behavior that ought to be encouraged and rewarded ``
I agree, which is why I will support this bill and urge my colleagues to do likewise.
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