Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Why the "Dream Act" needs to fail

From earlier today:

Democrats fight to save DREAM Act immigration bill

Background: The dream act would allow any illegal alien who was brought to the United States while under the age of 16 to obtain legal status (i.e., a legitimate green card, meaning they could later apply for full citizenship) if they have been in the country at least five years, are under age 30, pass a criminal background check, and graduate from high school (or equivalent). They would then have to promise to attend college, or to join the military for two years. They would receive no government assistance. Whether or not that exclusion extends to student loans is unclear, but my guess is that it does.

It sounds perfectly reasonable, doesn't it? For one thing, it isn't a kid's fault if he's brought into the United States illegally. And it's not like a lot of people are going to be able to take advantage of this, given how prohibitively expensive college has become.

Furthermore, I don't really care about Republican concerns that some who have committed misdemeanor offenses would be eligible for legalization under this bill. That's just silly flag-waving. Criminal law is so inflated now that any significant crime is a felony, not a misdemeanor, and no mention is being made of allowing felons to stay.

Nevertheless, I don't feel that passage of this bill would be a good idea. When viewed within the broader context of illegal immigration in the United States, it would be a step in the wrong direction. Illegal immigration should never be incentivized, and that is precisely what this bill would do. In the long run, or even the not-so-long run, people would be more encouraged to go ahead and sneak into the country with their already-born kids, knowing that, even if they themselves are someday deported, at least their kids will have a fighting chance at staying. We already have a significant problem of this sort stemming from newborn children of illegals being entitled to citizenship by Constitutional right if they are born here. This would compound that problem.

What's really happening here is that the Democrats are trying to jigger a way to encourage more people to sneak into the country illegally. They do that a lot. So do Republicans--in fact, it's amusing to see the two parties haggling on these issues when they are actually far more in agreement than dissent. Republican objections in this case appear to be little more than opposition for opposition's sake, while at the same time signaling a willingness to go along with it if 1) they get the credit, and 2) the background check provision of the bill is made a bit more rigorous. The only wildcard are rank-and-file Republicans who have recently been fairly heated up about these issues as a result of the controversy in Arizona. The reality, though, is that both parties are very interested in fostering a continuing stream of incoming illegal immigrants, albeit for differing reasons. Democrats are thinking in terms of long term voter loyalty from the descendants of Hispanic illegals, while Republicans want a continuation of the rights-free exploitation-ready labor underclass which their supporters so dearly love. Obviously there are going to be some exceptions, such as Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who seems to truly care about the individual people that this bill may benefit, but exceptions don't disprove the rule, and the rule is the two parties love illegal immigrants, and have no interest in stopping illegal immigration, now or ever. It's just good politics, nothing more.

The reason I myself am opposed to the "Dream Act" is that, while these illegal children really are being treated unfairly when they are deported, the overall problems with illegal immigration are such that there is no possibility of arriving at a solution that is fair to everyone. I would rather see a greater long-term level of fairness for a larger number of people, even if it means some raised-in-America kids getting deported. Towards that end, I am also opposed to the granting of automatic citizenship for any child born in the United States. That right should contain one sole exception: in cases where a child is born to illegal aliens on American soil, those children should also be considered illegal aliens. I also support recent efforts by the State of Arizona to address their illegal immigrant problems. Nobody's suggesting firing up the ovens. However, the unfortunate reality is that if people want to address the problem adequately, some legal immigrants, as well as some full-blown citizens, are going to be inconvenienced by it. Something substantive needs to be done, and we have reached the point where more reasonable measures aren't going to do the job.

Am I mean spirited? Am I a racist?

Addressing the second question first, I am certainly not suggesting that any changes to the law should specify any particular race or ethnic group. It so happens that the bulk of illegal immigrants are Hispanic, but this is only true because we happen to share a long, difficult-to-guard border with a large Hispanic nation, namely Mexico. If things ever started getting really bad in Canada, you can bet we'd have a similar problem with illegal immigration from the north, and I wouldn't change my opinion on these matters one bit. It's a matter of geography, not race.

For the first question, the reason it seems "mean spirited" is because we are all taught to look at this problem solely from the standpoint of someone trying to get into the country. Other viewpoints are intentionally soft-pedaled, or ignored outright. The fact that illegal immigration is a humiliating slap in the face to people who painstakingly jump through the bureaucratic hoops necessary to immigrate legally, for instance, is almost never mentioned. Another common complaint, that illegal immigration puts American workers in jeopardy, is invariably characterized as an extremist conservative position, one that right-thinking progressives shouldn't even consider, as if there's nothing at all wrong with a "conservative" American losing his job to someone getting paid substantially less than minimum wage. This, of course, brings up the next point, namely the working conditions that illegal immigrants can expect once they get here. They are here to be exploited. The nice, happy sugarcoating we slather all over this issue is pure horseshit. There is no "American Dream" for these people, they are here to work until they die. They possess no legal protections, are paid inadequately, and will typically endure harsh or dangerous working conditions, along with excessive hours of work. You can claim that they would also face these problems in their home countries, but, first of all, do you know for a fact that this is true? Mexico, for instance, isn't as uncivilized a nation as a lot of Americans seem to believe. But even if that claim is true, how is it that we Americans are somehow responsible for providing relief from conditions in other nations? Shouldn't they themselves be doing that? In fact, wouldn't it be better for these nations if their own people took care of solving their problems, rather than fleeing to other countries? And, even if we could justify being the emergency rescue team for oppressed third-world peoples, why do we insist on lying about it? We are not actually helping people, except to the very limited degree provided for by legal immigration and refugee programs. No, it's all crap, it's all about politics and money, there is no higher mission or purpose here. We need to stop kidding ourselves.

I am going to succumb to the temptation to illustrate the problem with an analogy. Would we consider someone "mean spirited" if he threw an intruder out of his home? How about if the intruder is a child brought in by his parents? Sure, we'd feel sorry for the kid, but that's a far cry from allowing him to stay there, isn't it? Why are we expected to only consider the viewpoint of the intruder in illegal immigration debates? More basically, why are we so carefully manipulated into not recognizing them as intruders at all?

It's time for some truth on this issue. The "Dream Act" is not it.

I will probably have more to say on immigration issues because, surprisingly, a total border lockdown is about the exact opposite of what I would ideally prefer. However, explaining how that position is consistent with what I just wrote is going to be challenging.

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