The press and politicians have been talking about DACA and the DREAM Act interchangeably, but they’re different things, and the difference matters a lot.
When the administration announced last week that it was winding down Obama’s illegal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (that gives two-year renewable work permits to illegals who claim to have arrived before age 16), it threw the issue over to Congress, where it belongs.
But fixing the specific problem of 690,000 people who applied in good faith for Obama’s illegal program, and whose work permits will start expiring after March 5, is very different from passing a DREAM Act amnesty from scratch. (Another roughly 100,000 received a DACA work permit at some point but no longer have one, either because they failed to renew, they were deported for criminal activity, or they finagled a permanent green card.)
A DACA fix would be a targeted measure for a finite, fixed universe of people. It would, in effect, merely be an upgrade from the tainted “amnesty lite” that Obama gave them to a lawful “amnesty premium.” While a DACA fix should include a review of the existing files for fraud (which may be widespread), administratively it would be relatively straightforward, since everyone involved is already in the database.
A from-scratch DREAM Act, on the other hand, would be, as Fred Bauer wrote the other day, “a substantial piece of legislation.” There are different versions, but the Senate version offered by the Gang of Four (Graham, Flake, Durbin, and Schumer) could amnesty nearly 2 million people, according to the immigration-expansionist Migration Policy Institute.
The fact that a DACA-only bill would be so much more limited than a DREAM Act also means that the damage-control elements of such a bill (containing the illegal and legal immigration fallout) could be less significant. For instance, a DACA-only package might include just mandatory E-Verify and the one RAISE Act provision that changes the way parents of U.S. citizens are admitted (from the current permanent green card to a renewable visa for those needing care). This would leave many other changes, like the RAISE Act’s other provisions and enforcement measures like the Davis-Oliver Act, for a later date.
In effect, the Democrats (and their high-immigration Republican collaborators) are using the March 5 deadline when the first DACA work permits will expire as a pretext to push for a much broader DREAM Act amnesty. They should not be permitted to get away with it.