Last week, the California State Senate passed its own version of the controversial “DREAM Act,” one that sets it squarely apart from its neighbor Arizona when it comes to illegal immigration. While Arizona and the states that have followed its lead want to play hardball, California has gone the other way: instead lobbing a softball to illegal immigrants that rewards the very behavior that government is supposed to prohibit.
The California bill will allow illegal immigrants who attended state high schools for three or more years to receive state-funded financial aid for college. According to sponsors, the measure is expected to cost California tax-payers about $40 million per year. About 40,000 illegal immigrants currently attend college in the state.
On the one hand, $40 million is a drop in the bucket compared to California’s debt, which exceeds $375 billion – almost twenty per cent of the state’s annual GDP. At least that’s the way supporters of the measure look at it. On the other hand, those Californians who would like the state to start addressing its massively bloated budget see this move as just another step toward fiscal disaster. Not only is the state spending more money it doesn’t have, the move sends another signal to illegal immigrants that California is a safe haven, putting even more pressure on state services.
“The actions of the California Legislature come against the backdrop of the state’s fiscal crisis,” said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). “While billions of dollars are being slashed from needed programs, while state universities and colleges are cutting programs and admission, and while there is an insufficient amount of government aid available to help legal residents pay for college, the Legislature continues to work overtime to find new benefits they can bestow on illegal aliens.”
The California Assembly is expected to pass the bill this week, and Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign it. This is a litmus-test issue in the eyes of many advocates for illegal immigrants in California, and they have made it clear that they expect Brown to keep his campaign promises to support their efforts.
“Governor Brown will weigh his political future on the California Dream Act,” said Randy Ertll, executive director of El Centro de Accion Social in Pasadena. “The immigration issue is now being used by both parties, Democrats and Republicans, as a way to win or lose elections. Tallies are being kept on how certain legislators are voting when it comes to immigration issues, and during campaign time pro- or anti-immigration campaigns are launched to persuade voters.”
There is a good deal of truth behind Ertll’s thinly-veiled threat. Polling data clearly shows that the illegal immigration issue neatly divides elitists and run-of-the-mill voters about as sharply as any major issue of the day. National Review’s Mark Krikorian laid out the distinction quite clearly:
“[A] candidate’s immigration statements become a populist diagnostic tool, serving as a way to determine whether a candidate is one of Them (the elite) or one of Us (the people),” he wrote. “And certain words and phrases are flashing lights that you’re one of Them: ‘comprehensive,’ ‘undocumented,’ ‘jobs Americans won’t do,’ ‘virtual fence,’ ‘we can’t deport 11 million people,’ and so on.”
The Left has tried to make illegal immigration a race issue, which is about the only avenue of approach even remotely available to them. Clearly there’s no upside to discussing it as a legal issue, as the right insists they do. Instead, the Left points to America’s long, proud history of accepting immigrants of every race, creed and culture and they wonder how we could have gotten so hard-hearted as to turn our back on that glorious heritage of the huddled masses yearning to be free. The only reason they can think of is that the rest of us are racists of the worst sort.
The distinction between orderly, lawful immigration in the bright light of day and shadowy millions slinking across the border without the slightest regard for the law seems entirely lost on the Left. It’s not about race, it’s about process – or about the lack of process. How can immigrants be expected to respect the rule of law when the first act one commits when entering the country involves the blatant disregard of the rule of law?
Under Barack Obama, the federal government has not only ignored the problem of illegal immigration when it comes to legislation, it has tacitly approved this particular form of law-breaking through manipulation of the bureaucratic apparatus that is supposed to enforce the laws already in place. As FAIR has reported, the Obama administration has instructed the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service to ignore the law when it comes to legal immigration and has provided the department with guidance on ways to delay or prevent deportation when illegal immigrants are discovered.
With the feds doing less than nothing in dealing with illegal immigration, the states have been forced to take the lead. Arizona took the first step to combat the problem. Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Alabama have followed Arizona’s lead, while Utah took a similar – but slightly modified – approach. At least nine other states have gone the other way, incentivizing illegal immigration by allowing easy entry into state programs. California is merely the latest state to join the latter group. Perhaps everything will turn out well for Jerry Brown and the California legislature, but it’s very hard to see how.