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.

Political Motivations
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.

Compassion Motivation
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:

  1. they must have come to this country before they were 16 years old;
  2. they must have been here for at least 5 years;
  3. they must be a high school graduate;
  4. they must attend college or serve in the military for 2 years; and
  5. 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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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:

  • http://www.papuagirlindallas.blogspot.com/ Kacie

    Good post. I agree that it’s not comprehensive, and so tends to be more politically motivated rather than an effective piece of legislation addressing the whole problem.

    Sometimes, though, you have to do things one step at a time. Is this one of those times? Not sure.

    • Bob

      I think the times that it’s necessary to do things all at once instead of one step at a time are the times when doing things one step at a time will mean you only get 3 of the 10 necessary steps done. I think immigration policy is one of those things. You need to do a lot of things to improve our immigration policy, not only the “hot button” issues.

  • http://www.nurturedmoms.com/ Heather

    I don’t know much about the dream act, so I’ll have to read up on it. I do think we should make immigration to this country easier for people who are coming here to work, learn, and contribute.

    • http://www.nurturedmoms.com/ Heather

      also, you may recognize the picture/story on my most recent post!

  • Broc

    I agree that while this particular bill has merit, and should eventually be adopted, but it should only be a piece of a larger picture of immigration reform. If there was more real reform right around the corner I would be more supportive of a bill like this. Real reform must start in one place and that is at the border, if you can not secure the border and begin to control the number of undocumented people entering, policies and programs such as this one, will not meet continuing support or success.

    In response to a couple of your questions Bob, no it will not impact the caliber of our armed forces. I do speak from experience being a vet myself. There are some people in the military now, and historically, not entirely voluntary or motivated by a desire to serve or be patriotic. The military does an outstanding job of “motivating” its personnel once through it basic training and specialty training (which are both used to weed out those who won’t cut it.) People enlist for all kinds of reasons, benefits, job security, to get away from bad home situation, travel, lack of other job opportunities. The military will be unaffected by a program such as this. Look at it this way, just b/c a kid wants to be in the military doesn’t mean he/she has what it takes to make it.

    As far as recruitment for the military….it wouldn’t hurt.

    Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently said the DREAM Act would boost military recruitment since the legislation would provide a path to citizenship for some young illegal immigrants who attend college or join the military for two years.
    Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1210/45932.html#ixzz18iyH9wrH

  • Chris

    I don’t like things like the DREAM Act because they are nothing but feel good nonsense. They should name it what it is like “The Amnesty for a New Voting Block Act. The government can’t even keep track of people coming here legally so how does anyone truly think that a giant government bureaucracy will be able to do background checks on all of these “kids” (kids are defined as anyone up to the age of 35 years old) ? How will they possibly know that they have been here at least 5 years? How will the government make sure they actually complete the steps they must to obtain their path to citizenship? And what do we do about the American kids that can’t get into college because there are no spots left?

    No, this is the kind of cynical political legislation that only makes a horrible situation much much worse.

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