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.