This American DREAM

By James Kwak

Brad DeLong reminded me that the DREAM Act is being considered by Congress right now and has an outside chance of passage. If you are a Senator on the fence about this issue, or you work for one, you should listen to the last segment of this This American Life episode, starting about forty-six minutes in. It will break your heart.

Oh, and given that opposition has been basically along party lines: aren’t the people who would qualify for citizenship under the act natural Republican voters, anyway? Basically the act would reward people who pull themselves up by their bootstraps, without the benefit of federal aid. Or is that no longer what the Republican Party is about?

33 thoughts on “This American DREAM

  1. We need to pass this leg, increase the numbers of H1B visas, and increase the numbers of student visas. Obviously we’d also need to regulate and monitor the latter more closely than what has been done historically, but there are huge benefits to be gained by the US in doing so.

    In addition to getting more of the smart folks into this country, we get them socialized to Americans and see that we’re not a bunch of overly political wingnuts. This translates into better US reputation and goodwill overseas.

  2. I suspect you know the question you pose is answered; neither party represents the interests of the American people or the principles of our republic.

  3. Rebublicans wanting people to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” is a longstanding cover. They are clearly in favor of socialist business subsidies for people who are already rich. They favored the bail out of GM putting in billions of equity capital? How much equity capital for small businesses is coming from the federal government to support small business development and creation?? Zero. How many republicans are clamoring for fairness in government dealings with big and small businesses? Zero. They favor and subsidize large businesses, while neglecting small businesses. How about a BAIL UP????? where small businesses get Billions of dollars for equity capital that they DO NOT HAVE TO PAY BACK, as they have to with loans. If the federal government keeps supporting large businesses and neglecting the small, unemployment will continue to grow, no matter how many tax breaks they hand out to large corporations.

  4. If Republicans had even an iota of sincerity they would be rolling out red carpets at the border welcoming new Americans who are hard working, deeply religious, firmly committed to their families, and suspicious of big government.

    So why aren’t they? Could the facts that these potential new Americans are both brown and working poor have anything to do with it? Naaaaaahhhh.

  5. after the DREAM act, we can proceed to the DREAM II act where children from india, vietnam, china, north korea and pakistan who, through no fault of their own, were born in other countries. they will be made citizens, given access to educational grants [we have many excess grants in the states going unused], enrolled in before and after school breakfast and dinner programs and so on.

  6. Good point. Another illustration of the hypocrisy of the republican party. Too bad the democrats are only slightly less so.

  7. Republicans have never been about pulling oneself up by the bootstraps. It is about assuming that those who are disadvantage failed at the attempt and therefore deserve their fate, that their favored position was earned. When the reality of those that deserve not getting a fair chance, they just look the other way.

  8. Sadly, just another political football with lots of chances for extreme rhetoric and very little action. As one of the commenters appropriately said, you only need remember that the parties don’t represent us any more, if they ever did. The fact that they don’t has just become as transparent as anything about our government.

  9. The beneficiaries of the Dream Act will largely be Hispanics, which voted 75% for Obama (exit polls in 2010 indicated that even in the Republican blow-out, Hispanics voted 60% for Democrats). Regardless of the merits of the legislation, Republicans will not be the political winners, should it pass. And you should have known that.

  10. I’m for the DREAM act, but again more H1B visas. Maybe I’m wrong, but I see more H1B visas diluting the talent of American citizens and being able to use as leverage to drive down salaries in tech industries.

    Given an unemployment rate of nearly 10%, it seems to me we should be looking to internal talent and training/educating them if need be. That is, I’d rather see college/graduate incentives than increase the number if H1Bs.

  11. Of course having written that, people could see the DREAM act as diluting the talent of other Americans. Something I can’t totally argue.

    The difference I would suppose, but perhaps I’m just being an apologist, is that DREAM recipients are already hear and trying to get their legs. H1B recipients aren’t here yet and have already gotten their legs else they wouldn’t have the skills to offer already…

  12. I agree wholeheartedly.

    Unfortunately, most people are under the delusion that their side stands for the true principles and values of this country and that the other side is a bunch of corrupt scumbags.

    Both sides have learned that the more extreme they move their positions, the more money flows in from special interests and corporations. They laugh all the way to the bank while we debate philosophy.

  13. Many Republicans do want to welcome new Americans who are hard working, deeply religious, firmly committed to their families, and suspicious of big government. Many Republicans are in favor of increasing immigration. However, the problem for them is how to deal with the people who came here illegally. The crux of this problem was illustrated by my children over the weekend:
    We instructed all of our children not to bring their portable video games on a short car-ride. My middle son smuggled his into the car and began to use it. His brother caught him and ratted him out to us. When I demanded he turn it over, the middle son protested asking why, since it’s already here, he shouldn’t be allowed to use it? His brother made the astute observation that he had followed the rules and didn’t have his video game player. Why should the brother who broke the rules profit when he, who followed the rules, cannot?

    For many Republicans, this is the crux of the problem. Why should the people who broke the rules be allowed to profit when many other people who are following the rules and trying to enter this country legally are not here? It’s not that they lack compassion for the people who are here, it’s that their sense of fairness for those who follow the rules and are harmed by the system trumps this compassion.

  14. To pass the bill change the eligibility ages make it 10 for the current terms and 16 if you join the military. That handles those who came here as young children and have not known anywhere else.

  15. Mr. Instrument,
    There are 2 solutions to your problem. One is to give the children of illegal immigrants brought here when they were children a viable path to citizenship. The second is to be cruel, and selfish,deporting them to the country of their parents origin. A place they don’t remember, don’t speak the language, etc.
    Which is it?

  16. Martha sounds like a wonderful person. If the DREAM ACT were narrow enough to cover, say, 5,000 such cases it would pass tomorrow. But of course it has been written to eventually cover orders of magnitudes more than that if it were to be enacted.

  17. Most of us are all in favor of citizenship for those with honorable military service.

    Beyond that, US citizens are expected to obey the law, so why would people who disobey the law get preferential treatment?

    Given the 14 million or so unemployed Americans, the passage of the Dream Act might make the tea partiers look like small change.

  18. The Democrats want more illegal immigrants under the belief that after an inevitable amnesty most will vote for Democrats.

    The Chamber of Commerce Republicans want more illegals because illegals can be exploited for the economic gain of employers, and in the short run depresses blue collar wages.

  19. Re: Martha Paschal___Yep…bring in more foreignors to undercut the American Students holding the bag – full of “IOU’s” to get the education they thought would insure a decent future. This is nothing more than a backdoor way for the corporate world to cut starting “Entry Level” wages. Being from the eastern part of the United States it was a well known fact of life to get your education in the east and go west for the dough. During the past quarter century “Higher Education” has taken under its wings of hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of foreign students (paying top dollar and actually shutting out american “born” and raised kids because of the increase in tuitions…in which most foreignors had no problem paying – Note: there are only so many seats available in these highly sought after universities, and the regents could care less as long as top dollars flow into their coffers!) and where do they go now? Here’s where they go…India,South America,China, and to a litany of Emerging markets countries now eating our lunch! The new slogan is “Get Your Education in the United States and Go Back Home – Sucker’s”…giving nothing back! Yes, this is the sad truth and you want to bring in more H1B’s? PS. US goodwill and reputation are laughable to say the least! JMHO

  20. Mr. S.:
    My response was to cathy0106 who seems to equate Republican objections to illegal immigration (generally) with bigotry and racism. I was merely giving her a different perspective.

    The DREAM act issue is more complicated. The children of illegal immigrants didn’t break the rules specifically. They profited vicariously through their parents. Therefore the original rationale is weakened.

    The best argument is probably a ‘slippery slope.’ It would go something like this: If we give the children of illegal immigrants a fast track to citizenship, it would encourage more immigrants to come here.

    I don’t buy that argument, myself. Illegal immigrants don’t need any more motivation to come here. I would expect that many of them are making decisions on the immediate health and safety of their families. The political climate and path to citizenship is of little import when you are fearful of violence and starvation in the here and now.

  21. Re: @ joedee1969___Nice link, thanks! Here’s a backup about “our” illustrious 4th estate? Ref: @ Google…”G. Edward Griffin on the Alex Jones Show”

    Hope the link works?

  22. Rich S. wrote:
    The second is to be cruel, and selfish

    Nice balanced argument you have there. I think that cruel would be more accurately characterized as harsh.
    Selfish doesn’t really describe it, however. How is it selfish to deny a person something that he or she acquired illegally?
    If your father acquired a house by fraud and then bequeathed it to you, would it be selfish of the judge to demand that you turn it over to the rightful owner? It would certainly be harsh. You would lose your family home. But it would not benefit the judge.

    Your argument assumes that the Republicans believe that they profit with less illegal immigrants. This is not correct. Society profits when the US has more hard working citizens. I know many immigrants who are extremely hard working and are great additions to the US. We all lose if these people must go. The question is if it is fair to the people waiting patiently for visas who are turned away because we let these people come in. Isn’t it cruel to them.

    The selfish acts are reserved for those who ask for the government to act to absolve them of their enormous guilt. Do you care more for the immigrants or for your conscience?

  23. Yeah, harsh would be a better word.
    In characterizing it as selfish, I was thinking back to the “zero sum” arguments I’ve heard in the past. “If someone else gets something, that means I lose.”
    When faced with a ten year wait for the legal path, and an impoverished family, there is no incentive not to break the law. The law is unreasonable, and as such, will be broken. If the process was similar to the late 19th, early 20th centuries, when my family came over on the boat, people would be willing to follow the law.
    It is extremely difficult to abide by our immigration laws.

  24. Ten Things You Need To Know About S.3827, The DREAM Act

    1. The DREAM Act Is NOT Limited to Children, And It Will Be Funded On the Backs Of Hard Working, Law-Abiding Americans

    Proponents of the DREAM Act frequently claim the bill offers relief only to illegal alien “kids.” Incredibly, previous versions of the DREAM Act had no age limit at all, so illegal aliens of any age who satisfied the Act’s requirements—not just children—could obtain lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. In response to this criticism, S.3827 includes a requirement that aliens be under the age of 35 on the date of enactment to be eligible for LPR status. Even with this cap, many aliens would be at least 41 years old before obtaining full LPR status under the Act—hardly the “kids” the Act’s advocates keep talking about.

    The DREAM Act requires that DHS/USCIS process all DREAM Act applications (applications that would require complex, multi-step adjudication) without being able to increase fees to handle processing. This mandate would require either additional Congressional appropriations, or for USCIS, a primarily fee-funded agency, to raise fees on other types of immigration benefit applications. This would unfairly spread the cost of administering the DREAM Act legalization program among applicants and petitioners who have abided by U.S. laws and force taxpayers to pay for amnesty. Taxpayers would also be on the hook for all Federal benefits the DREAM Act seeks to offer illegal aliens, including student loans and grants.

    2. The DREAM Act PROVIDES SAFE HARBOR FOR ANY ALIEN, Including Criminals, From Being Removed or Deported If They Simply Submit An Application

    Although DREAM Act proponents claim it will benefit only those who meet certain age, presence, and educational requirements, amazingly the Act protects ANY alien who simply submits an application for status no matter how frivolous. The bill forbids the Secretary of Homeland Security from removing “any alien who has a pending application for conditional status” under the DREAM Act—regardless of age or criminal record—providing a safe harbor for all illegal aliens. This loophole will open the floodgates for applications that could stay pending for many years or be litigated as a delay tactic to prevent the illegal aliens’ removal from the United States. The provision will further erode any chances of ending the rampant illegality and fraud in the existing system.

    3. Certain Criminal Aliens Will Be Eligible For Amnesty Under The DREAM Act

    Certain categories of criminal aliens will be eligible for the DREAM Act amnesty, including alien gang members and aliens with misdemeanor convictions, even DUIs. The DREAM Act allows illegal aliens guilty of the following offenses to be eligible for amnesty: alien absconders (aliens who failed to attend their removal proceedings), aliens who have engaged in voter fraud or unlawfully voted, aliens who have falsely claimed U.S. citizenship, aliens who have abused their student visas, and aliens who have committed marriage fraud. Additionally, illegal aliens who pose a public health risk, aliens who have been permanently barred from obtaining U.S. citizenship, and aliens who are likely to become a public charge are also eligible.

    4. Estimates Suggest That At Least 2.1 Million Illegal Aliens Will Be Eligible For the DREAM Act Amnesty. In Reality, We Have No Idea How Many Illegal Aliens Will Apply

    Section 4(d) of the DREAM Act waives all numerical limitations on green cards, and prohibits any numerical limitation on the number of aliens eligible for amnesty under its provisions. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that the DREAM Act will make approximately 2.1 million illegal aliens eligible for amnesty. It is highly likely that the number of illegal aliens receiving amnesty under the DREAM Act will be much higher than the estimated 2.1 million due to fraud and our inherent inability to accurately estimate the illegal alien population. Clearly, the message sent by the DREAM Act will be that if any young person can enter the country illegally, within 5 years, they will be placed on a path to citizenship.

    5. Illegal Aliens Will Get In-State Tuition Benefits

    The DREAM Act will allow illegal aliens to qualify for in-state tuition, even when it is not being offered to U.S. citizens and legally present aliens living just across state lines. Section 3 of the DREAM Act repeals Section 505 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (8 U.S.C. 1623) which prohibits giving education benefits to an unlawfully present individual unless that same benefit is offered to all U.S. citizens.

    6. The DREAM Act Does Not Require That An Illegal Alien Finish Any Type of Degree (Vocational, Two-Year, or Bachelor’s Degree) As A Condition of Amnesty

    DREAM Act supporters would have you believe that the bill is intended to benefit illegal immigrants who have graduated from high school and are on their way to earning college degrees. However, the bill is careful to ensure that illegal alien high school drop-outs will also be put on a pathway to citizenship – they simply have to get a GED and be admitted to “an institution of higher education,” defined by the Higher Education Act of 1965.

    Under the Higher Education Act, an “institution of higher education” includes institutions that provide 2-year programs (community colleges) and any “school that provides not less than a 1-year program of training to prepare students for gainful employment” (a vocational school). Within 8 years of the initial grant of status, the alien must prove only that they finished 2 years of a bachelor’s degree program, not that they completed any program or earned any degree.

    If the alien is unable to complete 2 years of college but can demonstrate that their removal would result in hardship to themselves or their U.S. citizen or LPR spouse, child, or parent, the education requirement can be waived altogether.

    7. The DREAM Act does not require that an illegal alien serve in the military as a condition for amnesty, and There is ALREADY A Legal Process In Place For Illegal Aliens to Obtain U.S. Citizenship Through Military Service

    DREAM Act supporters would have you believe that illegal aliens who don’t go to college will earn their citizenship through service in the U.S. Armed Forces. However, the bill does not require aliens to join the U.S. Armed Forces (the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard); instead it requires enlistment in the “uniformed services.” This means that aliens need only go to work for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or Public Health Service for 2 years to get U.S. citizenship. If the alien is unable to complete 2 years in the “uniformed services,” and can demonstrate that their removal would result in hardship to themselves or their U.S. citizen or LPR spouse, child, or parent, the military service requirement can be waived altogether. Such claims will likely engender much litigation and place a huge burden on DHS.

    Furthermore, under current law (10 USC § 504), the Secretary of Defense can authorize the enlistment of illegal aliens. Once enlisted in the U.S. Armed Forces, under 8 USC § 1440, these illegal aliens can become naturalized citizens through expedited processing, often obtaining U.S. citizenship in six months.

    8. Despite Their Current Illegal Status, DREAM Act Aliens Will Be Given All The Rights That Legal Immigrants Receive—Including The Legal Right To Sponsor Their Parents and Extended Family Members For Immigration

    Under current federal law, U.S. citizens have the right to immigrate their “immediate relatives” to the U.S. without regard to numerical caps. Similarly, lawful permanent residents can immigrate their spouses and children to the U.S. as long as they retain their status. This means illegal aliens who receive amnesty under the DREAM Act will have the right to immigrate their family members—including the parents who sent for or brought them to the U.S. illegally in the first place—in unlimited numbers as soon as they become U.S. citizens (6 to 8 years after enactment) and are 21 years of age.

    Additionally, amnestied aliens who become U.S. citizens will be able to petition for their adult siblings living abroad to immigrate to the U.S., further incentivizing chain migration and potentially illegal entry into the United States (for those who don’t want to wait for the petition process overseas). When an adult brother or sister receives a green card, the family (spouse and children) of the adult sibling receive green cards as well.

    9. Current Illegal Aliens Will Get Federal Student Loans, Federal Work Study Programs, and Other Forms of Federal Financial Aid

    Section 10 of the DREAM Act allows illegal aliens amnestied under the bill’s provisions to qualify for federal student assistance under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1001 et seq.) in the form of federal student loans (Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans, Federal Direct Stafford/Ford Loans), federal work-study programs, and other federal education services such as tutoring and counseling.

    10. DHS Is Prohibited From Using the Information Provided By Illegal Aliens Whose DREAM Act Amnesty Applications Are Denied To Initiate Their Removal Proceedings or Investigate or Prosecute Fraud in the Application Process

    When an illegal alien’s DREAM Act amnesty application is denied, the bill states that the alien will revert to their “previous immigration status,” which is likely illegal or deportable. The bill, however, prohibits using any of the information contained in the amnesty application (name, address, length of illegal presence that the alien admits to, etc) to initiate a removal proceeding or investigate or prosecute fraud in the application process. Thus, it will be extremely hard for DHS to remove aliens who they now know are illegally present in the U.S., because illegal aliens will be able to claim that the legal action is a product of the amnesty application, and DHS will have the nearly impossible task of proving a negative.

  25. P.S. Se. Jeff Sessions is the author of “Ten Things You Need To Know About S.3827, The DREAM Act”

  26. Act I “Prsident Reagan gaves amnesty to millions”

    Act II “U.S. enlist illegals as mercenries to overthrow Mexico – grants citizenship to “Modern Day Gladiator Hero’s”?

    Act III “U.S. legalizes borders open to UFO’s,…

  27. Rich S. wrote:
    When faced with a ten year wait for the legal path, and an impoverished family, there is no incentive not to break the law.


    There are two problems: 1) The current law; 2) Our awful neighbors. Until both are addressed, we will continue to face these difficult choices.

  28. Perhaps we could threat them like others from abroad who want to take advantage of the educational opportunities in the U.S. Provide them with a student green card while they are enrolled and suceeding in their studies. On graduation they could then apply for citizenship. (Those who might be intereted in a military career could also enroll in college ROTC.)

  29. One aspect many people are not aware of, I think, is that the Dream Act is a backdoor amnesty for the parents. Once the kids are legal they can rapidly petition their parents, who can then bring in the rest of the family legally.

    Because our immigration system is based on family reunification, not skills/education/need for the most most part, once you amnesty 1.5 million you are really allowing the entrance of 1.5 million large families. Parents then bring in their other kids, plus their kids. And so we end up with even more largely uneducated, unskilled immigrants, which we really do not need.

    Passing the Dream Act, with the stipulation that parents of Acters were given automatic disqualifications and could not be petitioned, would make it better. But then people would probably really scream, because the Act is not just about the kids, it is about the families and increasing the number of (largely Hispanic) voters. Some pols think that’s good, some are opposed.

    It makes more sense to integrate the kids, in my mind, but I oppose the backdoor amnesty. We need more skilled visas (let people who study stay and earn a greend card in 5 years or something), and an immigration system that allows eay entrance for skilled people. If a smart English person, for example, wants to immigrate ot the U.S. today, it is essentially impossible without first finding a job or getting married. But an unskilled Mexican walks across the border, or overstays, and can probably stay indfinitly. Nothing against Latin Americans, I live there, but the skilled vs. unskilled issue is key. We need to stop importing poverty.

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