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Essay Against The Dream Act

The Dream Act Essay

Being an undocumented student in the U.S is literally being cursed for being born outside the country because one will find virtually all doors to the American Dream closed. Apparently working hard, graduating from high school, living here mostly a whole life, and the desire to become someone successful and contribute to this country is not enough in the eyes of the opponents to the Dream Act to qualify for neutralization. All aspirations and hopes for a better future vanish when one finds out that it’s impossible to attend a university or find a job because proof of citizenship is required. All AB 540 students experience this situation and the Dream Act is the solution to stop these sufferings. The Dream Act is a bill that was first introduced in the senate in 2001 and has been reintroduced several times but has not been successful. This bill would provide AB 540 students conditional permanent residency, allow them to qualify for some federal and state financial assistance, and after completing certain strict requirements they would soon be able to apply for their citizenship. The Dream Act should be passed not only to be fair to AB 540 students, but for the benefit of our economy, baby boomers, and the future of the United States.

The Dream Act establishes a rigorous process for AB 540 students and they must meet several strict requirements. This means that not all undocumented students would qualify; only the fortunate, the brightest and overachievers would qualify. Generally “they must prove that they came to the United States before the age of 16, have lived here for at least five years, do not have a criminal record, are not removable from the country and possess good moral character” (Duncan A.19"). These students must also graduate from a two year community college, complete two years in a four year institution of higher education, or serve in the Armed forces for two full years. After six years under conditional permanent residency with a “good moral character,” (Duncan A.19") they can then apply for their permanent resident status and then eventually become U.S citizens. It is reasonable that after meeting such strict requirements and attending American schools for so long, they should be able to become U.S citizens.

The undocumented students that will benefit from the Dream Act are students that are practically U.S citizens but not by birth. Some opponents to the Dream Act don’t realize how much these students have suffered throughout their life. The article, “Standing up for Immigrant Students,” mentions all of these hardships and struggles; children are exposed to many dangers when crossing the border, and once they settle in the U.S they face other hardships and struggles like learning a new language, meeting the expectations of their instructors, and being discriminated against (4-5). Despite the obstacles they encounter in their path, many manage the way to do well in school and many overpass American students and become...

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Having recently blogged about what I called the “Muslim PR Problem,” I think this article about the DREAM Act also indicates sort of PR problem with respect to immigration:  The Act is a good idea that fails to gain traction with most conservatives not because they fail to recognize its merits, but because they are all too aware of the overarching immigration context and the intentions of lawmakers who view the Act as a tool toward broader amnesty and open immigration objectives.

Friedersdorf is correct when he says the broad consensus of American opinion is to control the borders.  This does not mean Americans don’t appreciate a good made-in-the-USA story about a poor immigrant who accedes to great heights in America.  This is no mere concession:  such stories resonate with Americans’ sense of American exceptionalism, of pride in the American culture, in the particularities of our national, state, and local societies that make ours a different and better society than any other in the world.  And it aligns with Booker T. Washington’s views about race in America when he said:

I think that the whole future of my race hinges on the question as to whether or not it can make itself of such indispensable value that the people in the town and the state where we reside will feel that our presence is necessary to the happiness and well-being of the community.  No man who continues to add something to the material, intellectual, and moral well-being of the place in which he lives is long left without proper reward.  This is a great human law which cannot be permanently nullified.

To the extent the DREAM Act applies to those immigrants who are already part of the American society, it is hardly objectionable that they should be also made part of the American citizenry.

However, my initial reaction to the DREAM Act was negative. And I think the last paragraph quoted from Reihan Salam explains why:  that the Act “is a wedge strategy designed to begin the process of earned legalization for the large population of unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States, and we don’t have the will or the resources for a serious campaign of attrition or repatriation.”

This is where I profoundly break with Friedersdorf, and would disagree that his view represents the “broad consensus”: This is not “a persuasive argument for passing the legislation.” To the contrary, the very possibility of amnesty for all illegal aliens—rather than the ones who have demonstrated they have embraced our American community and have been integrated into it, such that both us and them would be harmed by extricating them from it—is the reason why people fear taking even modest steps toward extending citizenship, such as the DREAM Act.

This is a PR problem.  Conservatives and moderates know that liberals want amnesty, and thus they suspect that legislation like DREAM is just a clever, tug-of-the-heartstrings way to crack open the barn door to get at that ultimate goal.  Thus, for those of us in the “broad consensus” on immigration, all the “won’t somebody please think about the children” rhetoric sounds fishy:  If we’re truly meant to think about the children, then why stop with the smart ones or the ones willing to serve in the military? Why not all of them?  Democrats do not extol the importance of American culture and community because this is clearly not what’s important to them.  Their end-game is amnesty for all immigrants, even those who have not demonstrated they have the ability or desire to become part of American society in anything by a positive legal sense.  Thus, Democrats’ “think about the children” rhetoric disserves the Act because it tips its principal proponents’ hand to their ultimate, troublesome goal of wholesale amnesty.

Instead, I think the right way to go here is to take the DREAM Act’s distinction seriously: not only are there certain kinds of illegal immigrants who should be given a path to citizenship because they have already made themselves integral to our communities, but there are other kinds of illegal immigrants to whom amnesty should not be extended precisely because they have not made themselves integral to our communities.  While folks might not be able to change whether they are “foreign” to our laws, they can change whether they remain “foreign” to our society.  That kernel of truth is what appeals to the “broad consensus” of Americans about the DREAM Act.  Yet, that consensus also still sees that Act as a ploy in liberals’ immigration agenda.  And that is why it failed to gain the even broader consensus it deserves.