DREAM A Little Dream

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research organization, there were approximately 11.2-million illegal immigrants living in the United States in 2010.  Of that 11.2-million, about 2.1-million were adolescents or young adults that were brought here by their parents, according to the Migration Policy Institute which is a non-profit think tank.  Illegal immigration has been a hot-button issue in the country for years and has spanned several election cycles.  The only things that are really talked about is the fence between the US and Mexico, and the e-Verify system to make sure businesses are hiring only people in this country legally.  Everyone seems to want quick fixes but not solve the overall problem.

2008 Immigration Statistics

We’ve now added a new layer to the equation, though.  What to do about the children of illegal immigrants?  To answer this question, one must go back to the overall immigration problem.  Even if the fence between the US and Mexico is completed, what do we do with those that are already here?  We don’t want to reward them for breaking the rules.  Some politicians (and citizens) say that we should deport them back to their own countries.  However, that takes billions upon billions of dollars to do so.  It’s not economically feasible, especially in this current economic climate.  In 1820, American Colonization Society began sending people to the Pepper Coast (in Africa) to set-up a colony for freed American slaves.  This was a popular alternative at the time to emancipation and was supported by prominent politicians such as Speaker of the House Henry Clay and President James Monroe.  The colony became known (and still is known) as Liberia, and it’s capital is Monrovia (the only capital in another country named for a US President).  Though widely supported at the time, it was quickly determined that it was too costly to transport all the freed slaves back to Africa.  In the end, this deportation faded away and slavery still remained until the 1860s.

And one other key question that should be asked when considering deportation is what is to stop the person/people from coming back?  Then we have to spend even more money to deport them again.  We could lock them up in jails since they are breaking the law, but then the taxpayers are still footing the bill.  So how do we go about with this problem?  I did agree with Newt Gingrich on one bit.  It needs to be done respectfully and with dignity.  These are still people we are talking about.

Regardless of whatever “talking points” our politicians come up with during this election, the problem will still persist.  And for the youth of illegal immigrants, those children brought with their parents to this country, it’s an even bigger problem.  Some aren’t even aware that they are in the country in the US until they finish high school and want to go to college, but their parents have to tell them that they aren’t able to.  We are thus telling a second generation that they really don’t have any options even though it’s through no fault of their own that they are here.  So what are their options.  They could always try to go back to their countries of origin if they have the money and the means to do so; they stay hidden in the shadows taking odd jobs and be a drag on our nation and the economy; or they end up in a life of crime and drugs and eventually end up in our prisons… being a drag on our nation.  Texas Governor Rick Perry actually decided to give a fourth option… to allow these young adults to go to college at in-state tuition rates so that they can get a proper education, get a job, and be productive (and taxpaying) citizens rather than being a burden on the state.  In a GOP Presidential debate in Orlando, Florida in 2011, Perry said, “If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they’ve been brought there by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart. We need to be educating these children, because they will become a drag on our society. I think that’s what Texans wanted to do. Out of 181 members of the Texas legislature, when this issue came up, only four dissenting votes. This was a state issue. Texans voted on it. And I still support it greatly.”  In a sense, what Perry did was nothing short of a Texas-DREAM Act.

There has been a federal DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) that isn’t a far off-shoot of the Texas legislation.  It’s a Democratic proposal that would grant citizenship for any illegal young adult that receives a college degree or enlists in our armed forces.  In 2010, this proposal went down in defeat when 5-Senate Democrats voted against cloture.  The bill has not resurfaced.  However, in 2012, a new DREAM Act has surfaced, but this one is a Republican bill.  Out in front for this bill is Tea-Party Republican Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).   Oddly, Rubio campaigned against illegal immigration and the very thing he is proposing despite the fact that he is the son of Cuban immigrants.  (NOTE: Cuban immigrants are automatically granted amnesty once they touch American soil.  Rubio’s parents came to the US in 1956 and were naturalized in 1975.)  So what’s the difference between the Democratic proposal that was defeated in 2010 and the Republican proposal now?  When down to the bare essentials of it, it comes down to one thing.  The Democratic plan granted automatic citizenship; whereas, the Republican plan grants residency with the individual applying for citizenship on his/her own… much like other immigrants do already.

Rubio’s plan is pretty close to a compromise between the Democratic stance of let them get citizenship and stay and the Republican stance on deport them all back home.  Despite how common sense Rubio’s plan may seem to be, it will not be passed this year.  Why?  It’s a presidential election year, and everything is seen in that way.  Rubio’s name has been circulated as a possible running-mate for Republican-candidate Mitt Romney.  So with his name attached to the legislation (which Republicans might have done purposely for that reason), the Democrats won’t be voting in favor of it just in case it strips away some of the Latino votes they usually receive in high numbers.  Nothing on this type of scale gets done in a presidential election year.  It’s even more partisanship than what we have been seeing.  And despite it’s almost non-existent chance of passing, it is a step in the right direction.  It’s nice to see that some sort of compromised legislation can be presented.  It’s sad though that it had to come in an election year when all sides are positioning themselves for votes and few will compromise on voting for the other side’s legislation… even when it comes close to their own.  In the end, Congress does need to act… and soon.  If this continues to be a problem that we kick down the road, it’s only going to get worse.  Rubio’s plan, nicknamed DREAM Act Lite) should be given a fair chance by all our elected officials.  It might or might not be the right compromise for such a divisive topic.

And the argument that they are taking away jobs from American workers?  I honestly don’t see many Americans lining up to work in the agriculture fields in the American southwest where they actually sleep on the dirt in the fields where they work under the stars.  No.  We, as Americans, have become to accustomed to our houses (which always have to be bigger than then Jones’s), our cars, and having everything at our fingertips.  Yes, the recession has taught us some lessons about our spending and living within our means, but that doesn’t mean we are ready and able to give up our lifestyles that we are used to.  And it still doesn’t mean that we are ready work and sleep in the agricultural fields.  As for the illegal immigration problem as a whole, we cannot just keep using temporary band-aids such as the fence, border security, deportation, etc., which can greatly aid in the overall effort.  We must start reforming the entire system from the ground up.  Why are so many resorting to this tactic?  The temporary fixes will only help alleviate the situation, not solve it.  And one must also realize that illegal immigration cannot be stopped 100%.  No nation has ever done so.  That doesn’t mean we should just give up and allow anyone to enter.  It means that we must make a policy that makes sense and to where ordinary people from other countries can get through in a timely manner.  If more are going through the process legally, then we can better deal with those that aren’t.

CHART:
The Relationship of Immigration, Illegal Immigration, Employment, and Wages in the US

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2 Responses to DREAM A Little Dream

  1. Deborah Mraz says:

    Children of immigrants here illegally “anchor babies” as long as the child was born in the United States the parents get to stay too and that child is an American Citizen. The issue of children already born in a foreign country whose parents bring that child to the United States illegally is a very complicated issue that doesn’t have to be complicated. After all, all of us…every United States citizen has roots, initially, in another country. Having said that, I would propose that we have an ‘amnesty’ month whereby those illegal immigrants are able to apply for citizenship (in a reasonable manner, but considering this is our government…that’s another subject I’ll let alone for now…) but, let them have a month to complete citizenship paperwork and thus, become productive United States citizens LEGALLY! Yes, there is a drain on our social services due to illegal immigration, but we must consider the fact that these are human beings and that every one of us in the United States are relatives of another whose country of origin was NOT the U.S. Simply read the inscription on the Statue of Liberty (which I recently used in a paper) or read a Tony Judt book. It’s easy to envision that if we, as a society, give people the chance to do the right thing, to be productive, it’s a source of pride to call themselves Untied States citizens!

  2. Pingback: Immigration Reform: The Proposal – In Declaration

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