The lame duck session has seen Democrats attempt to bring as much of their agenda to vote before they lose their House majority in January. The DREAM Act, which purports to grant conditional legal status to illegal alien children, is a pet project of Senator Harry Reid, who recently brought four versions of it to the Senate. He got a little help from the still-Democrat House of Representatives, who passed the measure 216-198. Thirty-eight Democrats voted no, and eight Republicans voted yes.
The goals of the bill seem laudable on the surface – kids who came to the country before age 16, have lived here for five years, and have a high school diploma will receive conditional legal status for five to ten years and get an opportunity to apply for full legal status later. I’m not opposed to giving productive illegal alien children the shot at improving their status through hard work, and in their cases they were brought here by someone else and aren’t necessarily lawbreakers in their own right.
The problem, as always, is in the implementation, which seems fraught with the potential for fraud. Applicants for the DREAM Act benefits only need to claim that they were brought here before age 16, with nothing in the way of proof required. In addition, the act doesn’t cover just high school and college students, but people up to the age of 35, which seems to go beyond the realm of just helping out hard-working kids.
In addition, there is the matter of the new DREAM Act citizens petitioning to have their parents, who unlike the children knowingly entered the country illegally, be made citizens as well. In this sense it does seem more than just a way to help out hard-working immigrant kids and approaches what some call a “back-door amnesty.”
There’s room to be compassionate for people who have come here to make a better life for themselves, but we must at the same time be a nation of laws, and leaving our border nearly untended while debating methods of granting citizenship to those who have made it here already seems a backwards way of ensuring the integrity of our immigration process. We are a nation of immigrants, but we cannot let the whole world live here, nor should we allow ourselves to be the safety valve for poor regimes that care more for maintaining their power than for improving the lives of their citizens.
In any event, the legislation faces a tough roadblock in the Senate with near total GOP opposition and a handful of Democrats also on record as opposing it, making it difficult for Reid to reach the 60 vote cloture threshold. I don’t believe this is well-crafted legislation, and like most immigration matters, seems ultimately designed to pander to a voting bloc. We’ll see if Reid can cobble enough votes together – I doubt it, but you never know.