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Ms. RICHARDSON. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of the ``American DREAM Act.'' I am proud to be a co-sponsor of this important legislation which reflects fundamental American values of opportunity, responsibility, and community. This legislation provides an opportunity for certain young men and women who demonstrate the responsible behavior necessary to earn the chance to become a naturalized citizen.
Specifically, the DREAM Act provides conditional permanent resident status to a limited number of persons each of whom must meet the following conditions:
1. Was brought to the United States when they were 15 years old or younger;
2. Has lived in the United States for not less than 5 years before the date of enactment;
3. Has been a person of good moral character, as defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act;
4. Must have graduated from high school, earned a General Education Development (GED) certificate, or admitted to an institution of higher education.
After 6 years in conditional permanent resident status, they can apply to remove the condition on their permanent residence if they have met the following conditions:
1. Maintained good moral character;
2. Have not abandoned residence in the United States; and
3. Graduated from a community college or has completed at least two years of postsecondary education in good standing towards a bachelor's degree; or
4. Served in the U.S. armed forces for at least two years and, if discharged, has received an honorable discharge.
The DREAM Act recognizes that there are a limited number of young people who, through no fault of their own, have been living in the United States illegally since childhood. For the vast majority of these young men and women, the United States is the only country they have ever known and is the one to which they have always pledged allegiance.
By providing those who have demonstrated good moral character the ability to integrate fully into American society through military service or a college education, the DREAM Act rewards responsible and productive behavior while at the same time invests in the future prosperity of our great nation.
I thank Chairman MILLER for his leadership in shepherding this bill to the floor and Congressman BERMAN, the author of this legislation, for crafting this legislation and for his perseverance over the past decade to get it passed. Because of their efforts the action we take today will make our country stronger, fairer, more just. And it will also make our Nation more prosperous in the long term by providing incentives and opportunities for higher education for thousands of students who each year are unable to attend college because of their immigration status.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the DREAM Act will reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion over the next 10 years through increased tax revenue. Similarly, a study conducted by UCLA also estimates that DREAM Act beneficiaries have the potential to generate from $1.4 trillion to $3.6 trillion in income throughout their working lives.
Each year, approximately 65,000 students graduate high school without the possibility of continuing their education due to their immigration status and less than 10 percent of these students will go on to pursue college. Not only do these talented, law-abiding young individuals lose out on their extraordinary potential, but as a Nation we also run the risk of losing out on a tremendous amount of economic growth.
Mr. Speaker, the American Dream Act gives these students the opportunity to continue their academic pursuits, be officially recognized by the country in which they have spent most of their lives, and realize everything the American Dream has to offer. Young, undocumented immigrants who have just graduated from high school deserve the opportunity to follow their dreams and should not have a ceiling placed on their future because of decisions made by others and circumstances entirely beyond their control.
During my visits to schools in my district, one of the most ethnically diverse in the nation, I have had the opportunity to meet many students who will benefit greatly from the passage of this legislation. These students have grown up attending schools in the United States and are intimately woven into our nation's fabric. It is time that we recognize these students' achievements and allow them to step out of the shadow that prevents them from pursuing their dreams.
Mr. Speaker, when I was six years old I had a dream. It was to one day serve in this body as a Member of Congress. I am thankful to live in a country where dreams can still come true for little boys and girls who work hard and play by the rules. The DREAM Act will allow a limited number of innocent and worthy young men and women to realize their dreams and in the process make our nation better, stronger, and safer. That is why this legislation is strongly supported by the military services, the faith community, the business community, leading higher education organizations, and thoughtful commentators on both sides of the aisle, including the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.
I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting the American DREAM Act.
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