Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have pledged a vote as early as this week on the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors), a bill that would legalize illegal aliens who arrived here before the age of 16 and who comply with certain educational or military-service requirements.
The core principle behind this amnesty proposal is that it is aimed at those who have grown up here and are, psychologically and emotionally, Americans. In the words of America’s Voice, a hard-left open-borders group, the beneficiaries of the measure are “patriotic young Americans in all but paperwork.”
There’s no doubt that this is the most sympathetic group of illegal immigrants. That is precisely why DREAM has been dangled as bait for the more general amnesty proposals described as “comprehensive immigration reform,” with amnesty advocates brandishing the situation of these young people as justification for a broader amnesty. (Though no one seems to have stopped to ask: If such a comprehensive bill would provide amnesty for all illegals, then why would we need DREAM?)
Nonetheless, now that the amnesty crowd has belatedly decided to move ahead on DREAM as a standalone measure, many in the public and Congress are open to the idea of addressing the situation of such young people. But the DREAM Act, in every one of its iterations over the years, has four fatal flaws.
1. The act is billed as legalizing those brought as infants or toddlers, and yet it covers people brought here up to age 16. The examples used by advocates are nearly always people who were brought here very young. The student-body president at Fresno State University, Pedro Ramirez — who was “coincidentally” revealed to be an illegal alien just as the DREAM Act lame-duck effort got under way — came here at age three. Harvard student Eric Balderas was brought here at age four. Yves Gomes was brought here at 14 months, Juan Gomez at two years, Marie Gonzalez at five, Dan-el Padilla at four, and so on.
So why set the age cutoff at 16? If the point is to provide amnesty to those whose identity was formed here, then you’d need a much lower age cutoff. I have a 15-year-old, and if I took him to live illegally in Mexico (and living illegally is a lot harder to do there than here), he would always remain, psychologically, an American, because his identity is already formed. The Roman Catholic Church and English common law set the age of reason at seven. That, combined with a requirement of at least ten years’ continuous residence here, seems like a much more defensible place to draw the line. Unless, of course, you’re just using those who came as young children to bootstrap a larger amnesty.
2. Next, all amnesties have at least three harmful consequences, and the DREAM Act ignores all three. The first of these is massive fraud. Perhaps one-fourth of those legalized under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act received amnesty fraudulently, including Mahmud Abouhalima, a leader of the first World Trade Center attack. The fraud in that first big amnesty program was so pervasive as to be almost comical, with people claiming work histories here that included picking watermelons from trees and digging cherries out of the ground.