What if the 2.5 million “Dreamers” could be part of the solution to America’s illegal immigration crisis, not just part of the problem?

Imagine sending up to 5,000 skilled and highly trained Dreamers – undocumented United States residents brought here as children – to Mexico and Central America to battle poverty, crime and violence, in exchange for a fast track to U.S. citizenship. Imagine the “Dreamer Corps.”

The Dreamer Corps would capitalize on the Peace Corps and its nearly 60 years of experience. But unlike the Peace Corps’ 7,400 volunteers dispersed among 61 countries around the globe, Dreamer Corps volunteers would work solely in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, where most of America’s illegal immigration originates, but where fewer than 300 Peace Corps volunteers serve. If just one out of every 500 Dreamers enrolled in the Dreamer Corps, 5,000 volunteers at a time could be deployed to these four countries alone.

With two-year tours of duty over a 10-year period, 25,000 Dreamer Corps volunteers could earn a fast track to U.S. citizenship. The rest of the 2.5 million Dreamers could fund the Dreamer Corps over this period, in exchange for permanent U.S. residency and a path to citizenship, so that the program adds nothing to the federal budget.

The Dreamer Corps could also include an entrepreneurship program. Dreamers have started businesses in the U.S. at higher rates than the national average. Dreamer Corps volunteers could earn fast-track U.S. citizenship by starting job-creating businesses in the four target countries. Grants, loans, mentorship and investment tax breaks could be provided.

By allowing Dreamers to earn their U.S. residency and a path to citizenship, rather than receiving them as amnesty, the Dreamer Corps just might break Congress’ political logjam on this issue.

And breaking that logjam is urgent, with the Supreme Court set to rule on the Trump administration’s proposed termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which temporarily shields 700,000 Dreamers from deportation.

Dreamer Corps volunteers would be unlike typical Peace Corps enlistees, who start out knowing little about their host countries’ cultures or languages. Nearly nine in 10 Dreamers were born in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador. Sixty percent of DACA recipients came to the U.S. at age 5 or older, speaking Spanish as their native tongue. One in three DACA recipients has a parent, sibling, spouse or child still living in their home country.

Safety concerns must be addressed, of course. U.S. military and public safety experts could work with the Dreamer Corps to address societal violence and provide security for the volunteers. And Dreamer Corps volunteers could be placed outside their original home country, if they or their family fled because of threats of violence.

Dreamers would likely welcome the chance to fund the Dreamer Corps in exchange for finally receiving permanent legal residency and a path to citizenship. An annual fee of $500 might be paid by those Dreamers earning up to the median U.S. income, increasing to $5,000 per year for those making $100,000 or more.

If four out of every five of the 2.5 million Dreamers were to participate in funding the Dreamer Corps, over $1 billion per year would be generated. Based on the Peace Corps’ annual budget – $410 million for 7,400 volunteers – this would allow the Dreamer Corps to easily cover the annual expense of 5,000 (or more) recruits, and perhaps pay them significantly more than the Peace Corps’ minimal stipend, in order to attract the highest caliber volunteers.

Could the Dreamer Corps actually have an impact on these countries’ deeply systemic problems? The odds are certainly better by deploying a thousand or more volunteers in each country – with knowledge and ties to those cultures – than the Peace Corps achieves with its typical roster of barely a hundred volunteers per country. Combined with a coordinated approach to economic development and security in the four target countries, the results could be significant.

Lastly, public service builds skills and character. As the Peace Corps motto says, “It’s the toughest job you’ll ever love.” The Dreamer Corps could not only help solve the Dreamer issue in the U.S. while confronting illegal immigration abroad, it could help build a cadre of new American leaders as well.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.