Making sense of the DREAM Act

Timothy Lee has a really good post up responding to Reihan Salam on the merits of the DREAM Act and, importantly, on how the DREAM Act relies on our better virtues:

The pro-DREAM argument appeals directly to Americans’ generosity and sense of fairness, not our self-interest. The hoops kids must go through to qualify for DREAM are focused on self-improvement for the kids themselves, not (like the Founders Visa) on maximizing benefits for American citizens. There’s no quota on the number of kids who are eligible, and at the end of the process the kids get to be full-fledged members of the American community.

Nothing about this says that we should “value the children of unauthorized immigrants more than the children of other people living in impoverished countries.” I wish Congress would also enact legislation to help children of people living in impoverished countries. If Reihan has a realistic plan for doing that, I’ll be among its earliest and most enthusiastic supporters. Unfortunately, I think the political climate in the United States makes that unlikely to happen any time soon. But that’s not the fault of the DREAM Act or its supporters. And voting down DREAM will make more ambitious reforms less, not more, likely.

Absolutely. Here’s what the DREAM Act does. If you meet the following criteria (below) you then have six years to obtain a two-year degree or serve for two years in the United States military. Then you get citizenship. Here’s the criteria:

  • You entered the country before the age of 16;
  • You graduate high school or obtain a GED;
  • You have good moral character (no criminal record); and
  • You have at least five years of continuous presence in the US.

In other words, a bunch of kids who had no choice whether they came to America or not who have no criminal records and have lived here for at least five years, can do something to improve their lives and serve their (adoptive) country and in return they get to become full partners in the American dream. This is exactly how immigration reform should tackle the question of illegal immigrant minors – with compassion, by asking them to put in some effort and do some good, and give something back in return. As Tim notes, this is appealing because it plays “directly to Americans’ generosity and sense of fairness”.

I think it’s an admirable piece of legislation, and I hope it passes. Then again, like Ronald Reagan, I’m more of an open-borders guy myself. If you can work hard and make society better, then who cares where you were born? Immigrants don’t take jobs from Americans any more than new babies take jobs from Americans. We can absorb as many hard working people as you can throw at us. As the labor pool grows, so does demand, so does the economy as a whole.

If we want to stop the problems we do find attached to illegal immigration, then it’s time to reform our drug laws. Until that happens, crime will never stop at our borders.

Update:

A friend informs me that I have it a bit wrong:

Just because I’m policy-trolling this week: The bill […] in this post is the version introduced in the Senate last week. But that’s not the version they’ll be taking up next week; they’ll take up the version that just passed the House. That bill requires that beneficiaries fill the educational or military requirements within 5 years, in time to apply for a renewal of conditional status (which lasts another 5 years). After that, they get green cards, and have to wait another 3 years for citizenship.

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19 thoughts on “Making sense of the DREAM Act

  1. > Immigrants don’t take jobs from Americans any more than new babies
    > take jobs from Americans. We can absorb as many hard working people
    > as you can throw at us. As the labor pool grows, so does demand, so
    > does the economy as a whole.

    Amen to that, brother. I’d rather have those workers here, earning their money here and spending that money here than have them doing those same jobs elsewhere and spending that money elsewhere.

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  2. E.D.:

    Still shilling for illegals I see. Two years college or two years in the military is a very cheap price to pay for citizenship. I fail to see why this country should encourage illegals to come here and bring their kids. Anyway it looks like the DREAM Act (what a cute name) is going down the tubes.

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    • > Two years college or two years in the military is a very cheap
      > price to pay for citizenship.

      I dunno, dude, I haven’t served myself but I know plenty of people who have. You do a stint in the Army, I’m all on board with giving you citizenship.

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        • Wow, that’s basic… plus a tour in a war zone, dude.

          Never been there myself, but I know people who have done both combat and noncombat tours and either qualifies, in my mind, as a suitable gatekeeping for citizenship. If you require something more than that as a baseline for people elsewhere to get in, you expect an awful lot from someone born somewhere else compared to the freebie you get by having an Americano as a parent.

          The two-year degree I think is a short requirement, but not when taken with the other factors.

          Let’s reframe, Scott.

          What, to your way of thinking, qualifies someone as a suitable candidate for citizenship?

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          • Pat:

            First being born here, then having an education of a skill we can use (and I don’t mean crop picker). However, for the DREAM Act, I would require a 4 year degree at a school accredited by a reputable entity such as the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the United States Department of Education (USDE) and not a degree from one of the online schools or such. I would probably allow citizenship after 10 years of military service

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            • Okay, the 4-year thing I can get on board with. I’m not so sure that limiting us to non-crop pickers is a great idea, but we can quibble about that later.

              I think 10 years in the military is a ridiculous bar to jump over, though, even if we were in peacetime, which we demonstrably aren’t.

              I’ve never been shot at, but I know people who have been. I think doing even one tour in a combat zone for a nation ought to qualify you for citizenship, at least.

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              • Pat:

                I have news for you, most people that do a tour overseas in a war zone don’t see the enemy and aren’t fired upon. Most folks are in the rear with the gear. Those folks that never leave the safety of a forward operating base (FOB) are called fobbits. As far as the air farce goes, I’m not sure any of them are ever in danger. So I fail to see why just going overseas should get you citizenship.

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