Path to Citizenship | Globe Editorial

Kids of illegals deserve a shot

December 2, 2010

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CONGRESS IS a long way from comprehensive reform of immigration, but it should be able to agree on granting legal status to the children of illegal immigrants who earn it by serving in the military or attending college. The Dream Act, as this path to a green card is called, is a win-win for the nation and for young immigrants. The economy needs more trained workers and the armed services need more recruits; the students and soldiers get the stability that legal residency provides.

Each year, about 65,000 children of illegal immigrants graduate from high school. Their ambitions are clouded by their inability to serve in the military or qualify for federal scholarships. Several states let them attend public colleges at in-state tuition rates, but most, including Massachusetts, do not.

The children are here through no fault of their own. For many, it’s the place they know best; they’re Americans at heart. To qualify even for conditional legal status under the Dream Act, high school graduates would need to have entered the United States before age 16 and been here at least five years. By then spending at least two years in the military or higher education, they can aspire to permanent legal residency.

The Dream Act has had the support of the Massachusetts congressional delegation except Senator Scott Brown. He should reconsider. The bill opens a door to opportunity, a Republican value if there ever was one.