Center For American Progress
October 1, 2012
When I immigrated to Florida at age 10, it was the immigrant students who welcomed and befriended me at South Seminole Middle School. Carlos, Isabel, and a few others took English as a Second Language classes with me, while others whose families had immigrated years earlier and were already well on their way to fluency showed us the ropes in the cafeteria, teaching us not to order “fried potatoes,” but French fries. Years later, some of these friends of mine would learn they were among the estimated 151,000 young Floridians who lack legal status—but not a dream.
This population would start calling themselves DREAMers in 2001 when the DREAM Act, a piece of legislation that would provide a pathway to permanent legal status for approximately 2.1 million undocumented youth currently living in the United States, was first introduced in Congress. Since then my courageous peers have fought for a chance to go to college and be paid fair wages for an honest day’s work. They came close to winning that chance in December 2010, when the DREAM Act passed in the House, but their dream came crashing down when Senate Republicans filibustered the act days later.
We’ve known all along that having Carlos, Isabel, and the 2.1 million other undocumented youths reach their fullest potential in the labor force would be good for the economy. But today we know just how big a boost the DREAM Act would give our economy.