Thursday, April 5, 2012

The GOP version of the DREAM Act is better than nothing. Just barely.

At CNN, Ruben Navarette praises an up-and-coming GOP version of the DREAM Act. The original version, promoted by Democrats, would give sons and daughters of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, provided they go to college or serve in the military. The GOP version apparently includes the college or military part--but not the citizenship.
But unlike the earlier version, it would not include a path to citizenship. Students could become citizens later. It's not like they'd be barred from the citizenship process. But they would have to take the initiative. It would be on them, as it should be.
As I understand it, then, all the GOP version really does is tell the sons and daughters of illegal immigrants that they won't be deported.  "We'd like to send you to Afghanistan, and if you're not killed or mutilated, maybe we'll think about making our relationship permanent." My concern is that this legislation essentially creates a permanent class of legal sub-citizens--folks who are welcome to do our dirty work and pay taxes, so long as they don't do something extreme like vote. Navarette says the only reason to oppose this is "ugly partisan politics," but one can actually object in principle to this policy.

And yet, given the immigrant-unfriendly politics of the GOP, this may be the only way to actually resolve the status of millions of young people who A) didn't come here under their own power but B) may not necessarily fit in their own home countries: Many are already, in a very real cultural sense, Americans. Removing the unlikely but still real threat of deportation would help them get scholarships, train for jobs, and contribute to our communities in ways that are denied them at the moment. If they really are eligible for citizenship after attaining legal status, then this legislation would achieve a very real good. It's not as good as the original DREAM Act. But it's better than nothing.

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