The Corner

Trust Reason, Not Emotion, on the DREAM Act

An illegal alien who brings his or her child into the country illegally undoubtedly assumes that that child will attend American schools at taxpayer expense.  The parent may also hope that the child will graduate from high school and go on to college. The DREAM Act, newly reintroduced by Sen. Harry Reid to the lame-duck session, puts the official imprimatur on those unofficial intentions, declaring that the U.S. expects and even welcomes such behavior.

Under the DREAM Act, any illegal alien under the age of 35 who entered the country before the age of 16 can apply for legal status if he obtains a GED or graduates from high school and begins post-secondary education. Gang members and those with DUI convictions are not barred from DREAM Act eligibility. The act signals to prospective illegal aliens the world over that if they can just get their child across the border illegally, they have put him on the path towards U.S. citizenship — and, as significant, the child will then be able to apply for legal status for his parents and siblings. And every such student will be granted in-state tuition rates by federal fiat, even if the state in which he resides bans in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.   

DREAM Act beneficiaries are certainly the most sympathetic category of amnesty candidates, and opponents of the act have been accused of hard-heartedness. Yet the act indisputably encourages and incentivizes more illegal behavior. It continues to send the message that the U.S. is not serious about its immigration laws, but will always eventually confer the same benefits on people who break the law entering the country as on those immigrants who respected American law. The huge administrative costs of the act — it is conservatively expected to qualify 2.1 million illegal aliens for amnesty — will be borne by U.S. taxpayers and by legal aliens, whose fees fund the citizenship service.

The lesson of moral hazard is clear: Making exceptions to the rule of law for sympathetic law-breakers only creates more law-breaking and more injustice towards the law-abiding in the future. Federal representatives should resist the emotional appeal of the DREAM Act’s beneficiaries and vote it down, until the border is demonstrably secure.

Heather Mac Donald — Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and the author of the New York Times bestseller The War on Cops

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