Dreamers may need the Dream Act of 2021 to be passed, but Texas needs it more.
As president of the University of Houston-Victoria, I have the unique joy of seeing more than 1,000 young (and not-so-young) people complete academic degrees each year. Whether that degree is in business administration, nursing or computer science, these credentials represent expanded horizons and new opportunities for those that hold them, as well as for their families and communities.
For years, UHV has had “dreamers” in our student body. Of course, I am referring to students who came to our nation as undocumented immigrants when they were children. These students are generally hard-working and successful. One good example is Sofia.
Sofia was a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, student at UHV who spent more than two years in Victoria from 2016 to 2018. During that time, she studied at both UHV and Victoria College in pursuit of her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She is now enrolled at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in San Antonio and expects to graduate in December with a BSN. Since high school, Sofia’s dream has been to become a nurse, and when she graduates, she will be the first person in her family to have gone to — much less graduated from — college. She said that she felt so supported while at UHV and never judged for her immigration status. During her time here, she was on the dean’s list and served in our Student Government Association, on a Title IX Committee and as a resident assistant. We are proud of her and know she will do great things for her family and community as a nurse.
As honored as we at UHV are to have played a part in Sofia’s higher education journey, I believe we need her more than she needed us. Texas is home to more than 100,000 DACA program recipients. These are the adults of tomorrow (and today, in many cases), and the future strength of the Texas economy will be impacted by our collective commitment or lack thereof to educate, support and propel them into lives of productivity and significance.
The Center for American Progress and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy have reported that DACA recipients in Texas alone account for more than $6 billion in gross domestic product and nearly $250 million in state and local taxes. A broad collection of business organizations in Texas has called upon the U.S. Senate to pass the Dream Act because they see the economic value of doing so. The Dream Act of 2021 is one of the increasingly rare efforts with bipartisan support (introduced by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.). I think that if Sens. Durbin and Graham can agree on something, most of us should be able to, as well.
The next time you need a compassionate, highly qualified nurse, think of Sofia. Texas will need many more like her in the years and decades ahead. Dreamers only know one home, and it is the same home that most of us know: the United States of America. Let’s not only let them stay; let’s continue to educate and support them. The future of our state will be better and stronger for it.