The Corner

Assessing the Modified DREAM Act

My concerns with the newly leaked alternative to the DREAM Act, which Katrina outlined below, is that it’s at once too restrictive and too expansive.

On the restrictive side, the proposal would limit the amnesty to those who earn a degree or serve in the military for four years. This means that someone who was brought here at three months old, has lived nowhere else, and knows no Spanish, but just isn’t bookish (or fit for the military) would be excluded. Since the humanitarian rationale for some version of the DREAM Act is that it would legalize those whose identities have been formed here and who are psychologically and emotionally Americans, this limitation seems to me inappropriate, even unjust.

Also under the “too restrictive” heading, the proposal gives only renewable work visas, rather than green cards. I know this is intended as a means of limiting chain migration, since people on “nonimmigrant” visas can’t sponsor people for immigration, but it’s a mistake for two reasons. The Democrats, with media complicity, will succeed in a few years in converting the temporary visas into green cards, so the whole “temporary” thing is just a legislative gimmick. And the reason they’ll succeed in such an effort with the public is that the original justification for the amnesty is that these young people are “Americans in all but paperwork,” so it follows that we should just give them permanent residence and be done with it.

But the Rubio draft is also too expansive in a number of ways. First, it sets the age of initial (illegal) entry to before the 15th birthday. That’s better than 16, as in the original DREAM Act, but since the rationale for the law is to legalize those who really have no memory of any other country, people who came as teenagers are simply not appropriate candidates for the amnesty. Lowering the age of initial entry to seven (the age of reason in canon and common law), or at least to ten, would be much more defensible.

Also, the proposal specifically excludes any enforcement measures, such as mandatory E-Verify. E-Verify hasn’t yet been phased in for all new hires, and any amnesty that doesn’t include measures to limit the opportunity for future amnesties is simply incomplete and an invitation to future illegal immigration.

What’s more, the Rubio proposal’s grant of renewable work visas merely delays the onset of chain migration as a result of the amnesty, rather than precludes it. Everyone understands that these young people are all going to get green cards in relatively short order, that the “temporary” nature of their visas is illusory. That’s why the family chain categories in the legal immigration system (i.e., all categories giving special immigration rights to relatives other than spouses and minor children) need to be eliminated altogether.

On balance, Rubio’s proposal is a good start, but still needs a lot of work.


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