Why the DREAM Act may be good business

A path to legal status?

MPR’s Sasha Aslanian has this report on the DREAM Act, the federal legislation that would grant a path to citizenship to immigrant youths if they completed high school or had a GED and pursued two years of college or military service.

The bipartisan federal legislation, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has attached as an amendment to a defense bill, could come to a vote this week. U.S. senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar are among its sponsors.

This is different from a Dream Act proposed at the Minnesota Legislature, which would give immigrants not legally in the country the right to pay in-state tuition.

The legislation, discussed in previous blog posts here and here, has languished in Congressional purgatory for years. It has its opponents, such as State Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Wabasha, as Aslanian reports:

Drazkowski said Minnesota already spends too much to educate, medicate and incarcerate immigrants who are not authorized to be in the country. Giving (such students) citizenship, he said, would impose an additional burden on the state.

I’ve always wondered by business hasn’t had a louder voice in national immigration issues. You’d think it wouldn’t want to see its labor force decimated by overly strict immigration laws, but I can imagine a number of them walk a fine legal line.

In this case, business speaks up for the DREAM Act in the form of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and its senior vice president, Bill Blazar:

“Without those workers being available and well-trained and ready to go to work, then as Minnesota companies get the opportunity to expand they’ll do one of two other things. They’ll either grow someplace else where there are workers, or replace workers with machinery,” Blazar said. “In other words, they’ll automate.”

And chambers of commerce don’t tend to be bastions of flaming liberalism. The Minnesota chamber supports Minnesota Forward, a group backing Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.