Monday, December 20, 2010

The DREAM Act, and justice

I didn't write about the DREAM Act before its death Saturday in the Senate, and I regret that now -- in part because, being a bleeding heart liberal, this photo made my heart bleed a little extra.

The bill would have created a path to citizenship for the children of illegal aliens -- young people who aren't legally citizens, but who are in most other respects what you'd reasonably call "American." They have been raised here. They have friends here. They speak English. They've been educated here. They didn't commit the crime that brought them here, their parents did; it's something they can't help, but they wouldn't necessarily be more more at "home" in their home countries. The path to citizenship would require them to demonstrate their willingness to contribute to American society, either by serving two years in the military or two years at a four-year college.

And it was defeated -- in one of those increasingly frustrating displays of Senate impotence, where "only" a majority of 55 senators supported the bill in a procedural vote.

I gather that many of those who opposed the DREAM Act did so largely because they don't want to somehow incentivize illegal immigrants into bringing their children to this country. It's a fair concern. But it doesn't really help us do anything about the situation that we face.

Right now, an estimated 65,000 illegal immigrants graduate from American high schools each year. We are not going to deport all, or even most of them. We just aren't, because we lack the kind of heavy bureaucratic machinery needed to do so. So those kids are here. But they can't go to college, and they can't get legitimate, on-the-books employment. So they're forced somewhat permanently into the underclass. And not for nothing: These kids end up having kids -- only this third generation, born in America, actually is composed entirely of citizens.

Like I said, they're here. For the most part, we're not getting rid of them. Offering them a path to citizenship isn't a perfect solution, obviously, because there is no perfect solution to the situation. But the status quo condemns many of these young people to economic servitude and actually alienates them from the country they live in. The DREAM Act could've helped make the best of a bad situation. Now we're just stuck with a bad situation. It's a tragedy.

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