Congress passed the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act ten years ago this summer, making it illegal to kill a baby who had been born despite an abortion attempt. The bill had very little practical purpose, as few babies survive attempted abortions. Rather, the goal was to expose and isolate the radicals on the pro-choice side who would oppose such a measure, thus helping move public opinion in a more pro-life direction. As Hadley Arkes wrote on NRO at the time, “no one except a crazed zealot would profess any doubt about the ‘human’ standing of the child at the point of birth.”
Each side on the immigration-control debate thinks it has a similar issue. For the pro-amnesty crowd, it’s the DREAM Act; for immigration hawks, it’s the Secure Communities program. The problem for the open-borders folks is that they’re the only ones who think the DREAM Act is an unopposable bill — in fact, it’s been voted down in Congress more than once and no one’s suffered any consequences. The problem for the immigration hawks is that too much of the ostensibly pro-enforcement Republican leadership is too timid to see the power of Secure Communities as a political tool.
At first blush, you can see why the immigration expansionists would think DREAM is the Born-Alive Act of the amnesty movement. It focuses on the most sympathetic group of illegal aliens: those who came as children and who fulfill certain educational or military-service requirements. Who’s against bright, patriotic children? Obviously, only “crazed zealots.”
But the DREAM Act’s supporters want the law to do more than the Born-Alive approach can accomplish. The bill itself casts a very wide net. And even more important, in several of their attempts to pass the legislation, advocates figured they could immediately leverage sympathy for DREAM kids into the whole “comprehensive immigration reform” package — amnesty for all 11 million illegals plus huge increases in future immigration. To boil down their message: Little Juan here was brought to America two weeks after his birth, has lived here his whole life, speaks only English, was the valedictorian at his high school, and after graduating from MIT intends to devote his life to hunting down America’s enemies; therefore, all illegal aliens deserve amnesty.
What their surefire winner has turned into is just another legislative proposal, open to discussion and compromise. Senator Marco Rubio is reported to be working on a DREAM Act 2.0, an attempt at addressing the issue while avoiding the very real problems that any amnesty will cause. There are several elements that would have to be incorporated into any sensible version of such legislation, including:
a lowering of the required initial age of entry, so the bill would apply only to those who were brought here very young and thus whose identities were formed here;
enforcement measures to ensure we don’t have this same debate ten years from now, namely real border fencing, mandatory E-Verify, full state and local cooperation with federal immigration authorities, and a functioning check-out system for foreign visitors (since close to half of illegals are visa overstayers);
a means of preventing the adults who put their children into this predicament in the first place from ever benefiting — i.e., a way of ensuring that a limited amnesty wouldn’t turn into an unstoppable engine of chain migration.
Senator Rubio is reported to be considering giving the DREAM beneficiaries a renewable work visa rather than permanent residence (green cards) leading to citizenship — with only “nonimmigrant” visas, they wouldn’t be able to sponsor future immigrants. (An approach I’m more comfortable with would be to give green cards, but eliminate the chain-migration categories altogether.)
In any case, the DREAM Act has turned into just another legislative football with little chance of passage, rather than something only “crazed zealots” could oppose.