There was a big to-do right before the election about the DREAM Act (which has another name, but no one cares about that name, because we only care about the acronym it creates). Most people said to themselves, “The DREAM Act… what a pretty name,” and if they’d heard a little bit about it, thought, “Sounds good.”
What exactly is the DREAM Act, and why on earth would anyone oppose it? Well, it’s different for different people. Primarily, the DREAM Act is political. The Democrats really don’t want it passed, but they’ll bring it up during an election to score political points against the Republicans. Witness September 2010: the Senate, led by Harry Reid, tries to attach the bill to a defense appropriations bill, unsuccessfully. The reason? Most people agree it was to help Harry Reid win his race against Sharron Angle in November.
Most reasons politicians either support or oppose the DREAM Act are political (which I will discuss shortly), but there are other things to look at when evaluating it, including motivations based on compassion, motivations based upon the rule of law, national security questions, education implications, and some other, valid questions.
Democrats like the bill because it garners them a large new class of voters that would most likely vote for them. The bill would largely benefit Hispanic people. 67% of Hispanic voters voted for Barack Obama (compared to 95% of African American voters and 70% of Jewish voters), so there’s a likelihood that these new voters would be Democrats. There are a few Democrats (3 in the Senate) that oppose the bill because they fear that it would portray them as soft on illegal immigrants. Republicans, on the other side, are politically motivated against the DREAM Act because it would give Democrats a larger Hispanic base (and heaven forbid Republicans actually go out and try to convince this demographic of the rightness of their policies). There are those in both parties that oppose the bill (privately or publically) because they don’t think that it should be done on its own, apart from a more comprehensive bill.
The motivation that is used in public (because we can’t publically discuss political motivations when it comes to anything) is that we must have compassion on these kids. President Obama, in one of the presidential debates, made the statement that these kids are here “through no fault of their own.” They were brought here by their parents; why should we penalize them for that? They’ve grown up here, and this has been their home for many years. They know no other home. Ruben Navarette, an editorial board member of the San Diego Union-Tribune, states that the best argument for passing the DREAM Act is this: “so that deserving young people get the chance to realize their full potential.” This is the best argument from a conservative standpoint as well: conservatives are for greater freedom and greater liberty; freedom and liberty should be offered to everyone, including these kids.
Rule of Law Motivation
But what about the law? These kids got here by breaking the law, whether they were aware of it at the time or not. Do we reward children for the bad behavior of their parents? Stories have been told about pregnant women who swim the Rio Grande so that their child will be born in the United States, so that they can be born as U.S. Citizens under the right of birthplace. Will the DREAM Act merely extend that right of birthplace doctrine so that a child can be brought to the U.S. up until he/she is 16 years old, and still become a U.S. citizen? Is this just amnesty for illegal immigrants?
Requirements of the DREAM Act
What does the DREAM Act actually say? Well, it says that an illegal immigrant can become a permanent resident (get their green card), if they meet certain requirements:
- they must have come to this country before they were 16 years old;
- they must have been here for at least 5 years;
- they must be a high school graduate;
- they must attend college or serve in the military for 2 years; and
- they must demonstrate “strong moral character.”
If they meet these requirements, then they will be given permanent status, and can then pursue citizenship.
There are still some lingering questions:
- Educators say that this would help these young people get through college. Does this allow for illegal immigrants to be considered for scholarships, just like legal citizens, or even in front of legal citizens?
- There’s a military service requirement. Will this create a class of the active military that are only there to obtain citizenship? Does this affect the caliber of our armed forces? Is this a national security issue?
- Will this help the armed forces in their recruiting efforts?
I think that this legislation could be a very good piece of legislation, but not as it is, and not as stand-alone legislation. You see people on television saying that they want “comprehensive immigration reform.” Why comprehensive? Why not do something like immigration reform in piecemeal legislation? Why not pass the DREAM Act by itself, and help a few people? Because if you do, you’ll only pass the things that are popular, and not all the things that need to be passed. You’ll only create a path to citizenship for illegal aliens, but not a bill to increase security. You’ll pass a bill to put up a fence on the border, but not a law that stiffens penalties for companies who knowingly hire illegal aliens. The DREAM Act needs to be passed, but not on its own. It needs to be a part of a larger, more comprehensive bill. Congress can act, but they’d rather not, saving their own issues to snipe at the other side with. All the while, there are people who are caught in the crossfire, people who deserve a better life.
Here’s Harry Reid (NV) and Dick Durbin (IL) talking about the DREAM Act:
Here’s Michelle Malkin talking about the DREAM Act on Fox News: