Ed. Note: This is the fourth in a series of posts from top Administration Officials on the importance of the DREAM Act. Read Education Secretary Arne Duncan's post here, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis's contribution here, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke's post here.
Over the past several weeks, the President and my fellow Cabinet members have talked about a number of important reasons to support the DREAM Act. Today, I’d like to speak to the important role the DREAM Act would have in promoting public safety though smart and effective immigration enforcement.
By providing a firm, but fair, means for individuals who were brought to the United States as children to adjust their status, the DREAM Act would bolster the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to focus our limited enforcement resources on detaining and removing criminal aliens and those who pose a threat to our national security and public safety.
Under this Administration, the Department of Homeland Security has deported a record number of illegal aliens convicted of criminal offenses, including 195,000 in fiscal year 2010 – a 70 percent increase in criminal removals compared to 2008. Passage of the DREAM Act would further enhance these efforts.
To be clear, no one who poses a threat to public safety will be able to adjust their status under the DREAM Act. The bill ensures applicants will undergo a rigorous background check, and individuals who committed offenses that are grounds for removal will be barred from relief. It is a narrowly-tailored, bipartisan bill that would allow a select group of immigrant students with great potential to contribute more fully to America.
Our priority of removing criminal illegal aliens – which the DREAM Act would further enhance – is only one part of this Administration’s broader strategy to secure the border and enforce our nation’s immigration laws. We have more personnel, technology, and infrastructure at the border than ever before, including record numbers of Border Patrol agents and 1,200 National Guard personnel whom the President has authorized to assist at the border. As of this year, we have drone flights covering the southwest border from El Centro, CA to Brownsville, TX, and have more border fencing than at any previous point in history.
The DREAM Act is not a substitute for comprehensive immigration reform. While the broader immigration debate continues, however, I urge the Congress to pass the DREAM Act and allow those who arrived in this country as children and who want to go to college or serve in our military to adjust their immigration status. By passing the DREAM Act, Congress can help DHS continue to enhance our immigration enforcement efforts in the way that makes the most sense for our public safety and national security. The U.S. House of Representatives has already acted in a bipartisan manner on this legislation, voting last week to pass the DREAM Act. And soon, the Senate will have the same opportunity to enact the measure. I urge the Senate to do what’s good for our nation’s security, pass the DREAM Act.
Janet Napolitano is Secretary of Homeland Security