America's Bad DREAM

Can Democrats force a vote on the pro-illegal immigration DREAM Act?

Democrats are pushing to get the DREAM Act up for a vote before this lame duck Congress finally fades blessedly away into the mists of history. It’s a political ploy of course, one with little downside for Democrats. If the DREAM Act were somehow to pass, then they’ve added several million reliable voters to the rolls. If the DREAM Act comes up for a vote and fails, as most expect it will, then the Democrats can tell Hispanic Americans that they tried to address the illegal immigration issue in a compassionate way, but those nasty Republicans got in the way.  It’s a win/win for Senator Harry Reid, who needed a solid Hispanic voting bloc to give him a narrow victory over Sharon Angle in November, and the majority leader is pulling out all of the stops to force a vote on the act.

Actually, at last count Reid is trying to force votes on four DREAM Acts. That’s how many versions of the bill Reid’s deputy, Senator Dick Durbin, has introduced thus far. Each version has the same name, and each is slightly modified compared to the last. The only thing that’s exactly the same about DREAM Acts 1.0 through 4.0 is that none of the bills have gone through the Judiciary Committee, or any other committee. If there’s political hay to be made by Republicans blocking one DREAM Act, then the propaganda value of saying the GOP blocked four different versions of immigration reform is all the greater. One can almost hear Democrats campaigning on the issue in 2012: “When we were in charge, we tried to pass sensible, compassionate immigration reform that only met the needs of children who are already part of the American tapestry...We addressed Republican concerns in four different bills, but they blocked our every move to compromise. Republicans say they want to move forward on immigration, but the record proves that they just hate immigrants.” Or, words to that effect.

On the surface the DREAM Act sounds reasonable. The act grants legal naturalized status to illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States before they turned sixteen, who have lived here for at least five years, and who meet certain criteria for education or military service. It seems like a compassionate approach. Illegal immigrants who arrived in America before their sixteenth birthday were most likely brought here by their parents. Why punish the child? Further, if they came here as kids and spent half a decade immersed in American culture, they’ve blended into the melting pot, right? As America’s Voice, a leftist open-borders organization put it, illegal immigrants who meet the DREAM Act criteria are “patriotic young Americans in all but paperwork.”

Even sometimes conservative commentator David Frum has embraced this narrative of the DREAM Act, which he calls a "humanitarian measure." Frum recommends just a "few more improvements" to help the bill pass muster. For instance, we might lower the entry age to 12 from 16; and also maybe make lying on the application a prosecutable offense (now there's an idea). Unfortunately, all of Frum's suggestions miss the crucial issues at stake: that the DREAM Act is, in fact, a pernicious law that will encourage the further degradation of a system already fraught will illegality; that children of illegal aliens have received more than enough generosity from the U.S. government and its social institutions, without also being taught that by flouting the system, the system rewards you.

The DREAM Act represents another example of clever leftist packaging: the concept seems innocuous, addresses a perceived wrong and utilizes benevolent big government to aid the weak and the powerless. If that was all the DREAM Act actually did – if its only effect was to naturalize illegal immigrants who didn’t have a say in the decision to break our laws and who have gainfully been assimilated in American society – it would probably attract enough Republican votes to pass. Unfortunately, when one scratches beneath the surface only a bit, it’s clear that the DREAM Act’s noble, compassionate goals are but a thin veneer hiding the rot of troubling consequences lying just below. Passing the DREAM Act would be a disaster, one that would exacerbate and encourage illegal immigration and one that would create a vast new national legal quagmire for years to come.

The basic problem with the DREAM Act is that it invites – almost begs for – fraud. The last time the nation took a stab at amnesty for illegal immigrants was back in 1986. That effort was a spectacular failure (the number of illegal immigrants in the United States having doubled since then) and fraud was rampant, as illegal immigrants lied through their teeth in order to meet the criteria necessary to earn their Get Out of Jail Free card from Uncle Sam. Nothing in the DREAM Act prevents that kind of fraud, other than the vague, misguided belief that government bureaucrats will be especially skilled at separating the wheat from the chaff. Worse, the DREAM Act encourages applicants to lie by prohibiting the use of “any of the information contained in the amnesty application (name, address, length of illegal presence that the alien admits to, etc.) to initiate a removal proceeding or investigate or prosecute fraud in the application process.” As Mark Krikorian pointed out in the National Review, this provision is the equivalent of giving illegal immigrants a free pull at the naturalization slot machine. If a fraudulent application gets by the bureaucrats, the applicant wins. If not, they’re no worse off than they were before.

And let’s say that an illegal immigrant who tried, and failed, to win naturalization under the DREAM Act is later caught and faced deportation. Such an individual could argue that information in his DREAM Act application was used to find him and build a case against him. The government would then face the burden of proving that wasn’t – couldn’t be – so. The DREAM Act would thus become a leftist attorney’s dream come true. Any deportation case involving a DREAM Act applicant would become bogged down in the courts as prosecutors tried to prove that no government agency could have possible accessed any information contained in the application.

A third, equally troubling, aspect of the DREAM Act involves fundamental fairness. If we imagine that we can find a fix for the first two problems, if there was some way to effectively prevent fraud and avoid frivolous legal challenges, the problem of equity still remains. The ideal DREAM Act applicant came to America as a kid, got an education and is now a productive member of society. That education, in most every case, would have been subsidized in large part or in whole by taxpayers, a group that does not include our ideal applicant’s parents. Even if one accepts the unrealistic ideals of the DREAM Act as achievable goals, we’re still left with a huge mass of illegal immigrants who reaped the benefits of America’s educational system without they, or their guardians, having contributed to the upkeep of that system.

The truth of the matter is, if illegal immigrants benefited from the use of our public education resources, but did nothing to contribute to the upkeep of those resources, then they owe us. Yet, there will never be a reckoning of this debt, and few Americans will ask for one. These individuals will have completely benefited from American beneficence at absolutely no cost to themselves. Does this sound like a "humanitarian" crisis?

The DREAM Act is just the latest example of a seemingly high-minded, well-intentioned bill designed by leftists who either refuse to acknowledge or who consciously ignore the many disastrous consequences that would result from the passage of such a statute.  It’s a bill that does little to solve our existing illegal-immigration problem, even as it encourages more illegal immigration in the future. If we’re going to stem the tide pouring across our borders, then Congress needs to take clear, decisive action. The DREAM Act isn’t any of that. The DREAM Act is a coward’s way out, and Republicans should do everything in their power to block however many DREAM Acts that Harry Reid chooses to throw at them.