With DACA, the Median Isn’t the Message

by Jason Richwine

News reports are awash in statistics about DACA recipients. The median age of arrival is six, 72 percent have lived in the U.S. for ten years, 15 percent have a four-year degree, and so on. Leave aside that some of the statistics come from dubious surveys. The problem is that DACA recipients are a heterogeneous group brought together with arbitrary age and arrival cutoffs by an administration intent on a broader amnesty. People who arrive when they are 15, for example, do not necessarily deserve amnesty just because they were once lumped into a group in which the median arrival age is six. To borrow the late Stephen Jay Gould’s quip, the median isn’t the message.

In a recent article for NR, Steven Camarota explained how the popular conception of a “DREAMer” — brought to the U.S. as a young child, unfamiliar with the birth country, fluent in English, completely law-abiding, attending college, etc. — applies to only a subset of DACA recipients. Young illegal immigrants could cross the border at the age of 15, live in the U.S. five years, then receive DACA at the age of 20. During those five years, they could make brief trips to their birth country without disqualification. They are also not required to speak English. In fact, as Camarota notes, the DACA application form has space for the interpreter’s name. They can have up to two convictions for certain misdemeanors, meaning people who plead down from a felony charge could remain eligible. Finally, DACA recipients need not attend college or even graduate from high school. Those without a high-school diploma merely need to be involved in some sort of training.

If Congress wishes to grant amnesty to a select group of sympathetic people, there is no legal or ethical reason for that amnesty to apply to all existing DACA recipients, regardless of how compelling their average characteristics may be. In fact, Congress has an ethical obligation to more exactingly define the target population. A broad-brush approach would inevitably reward lawbreaking by some people who do not have the public’s sympathy, and it would be especially demoralizing to potential immigrants applying through the proper legal channels.

Unfortunately, the current DREAM Act pending in Congress goes in the opposite direction. As Byron York wrote last week, the Schumer-Durbin-Graham-Flake bill tolerates more criminal activity, expands the eligible age range, and shortens the required tenure in the U.S. The watered-down requirements are a strong indication that DACA is not the end limit of amnesty, but just the beginning.

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