Dan Stein: GOP DREAM Act is Bad Politics and Bad Policy
As we move towards the general election, winning the votes of Latinos, the nation’s largest minority group, will be important to the hopes of both parties. Not surprisingly, Democrats and Republicans are searching for issues they believe will appeal to these voters.
Democrats have sought to win over Latinos by promising amnesty for illegal aliens, and are renewing efforts to pass the DREAM Act, which they have deceptively packaged as a “compassionate” amnesty for people who were brought or sent illegally to the United States prior to age 16.
The DREAM Act has consistently failed to pass since it was first introduced in 2000 because most Americans recognize it as a broad amnesty that would benefit millions of illegal aliens well into adulthood.
Even with little chance of passage in 2012, Democrats are using it as an election year ploy to force Republicans to block the bill and then cite that as evidence of Republican hostility to Latinos.
Republicans appear to be taking the bait.
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Republicans on both sides of Capitol Hill are scrambling furiously to come up with their own version of the DREAM Act, aptly described by The Hill newspaper as “Republicans trying to have to both ways by trying to ingratiate themselves with Hispanic voters without offending…conservatives within their base.”
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the GOP front man for the DREAM Act 2.0, has been appearing on cable news programs to talk up his unfinished bill, the details of which he refuses to reveal.
Besides Rubio, two other high-profile lame duck senators, Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), are reported to be working on an equally secret version of the DREAM Act.
In the House, Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.) has issued a press release, though not an actual bill, touting his own version of the DREAM Act.
Besides being an inept political stunt that is unlikely to gain them much traction among Latino voters, the DREAM Act 2.0 is based on the same flawed premises that makes the Democrats’ DREAM Act a bad idea.
Americans empathize with people who find themselves in a difficult situation because their parents illegally brought them to this country.
But they also understand that it is the parents who created the situation and that rewarding their actions, by granting legal status to their children, will only encourage more people to violate our immigration laws.
Moreover, the conditions attached to qualifying for all versions of the DREAM Act would heap new burdens on America’s already overburdened public higher education system.
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Inevitably, all versions of the DREAM Act would come at great expense to American taxpayers and to Americans seeking to get through college themselves, or upgrade their own skills.
Americans empathize with people who find themselves in a difficult situation because their parents illegally brought them to this country. But they also understand that it is the parents who created the situation and that rewarding their actions, by granting legal status to their children, will only encourage more people to violate our immigration laws.
The DREAM Act by its very nature shifts the consequences of breaking the law from the people who broke it, the parents, to those the law was intended to protect – the American people.
Unfortunately, children do suffer from the bad decisions made by their parents.
But in every other circumstance we hold the offending parents responsible for the difficulties their actions cause family members.
Moreover, if we feel morally compelled to grant amnesty to the current cohort of people who were brought here illegally as minors, the inevitable consequence will be millions more people bringing their kids to this country illegally in the expectation that America will feel the same obligation to their children in a few years' time.
Besides being an unjustified amnesty that would harm the interests of law-abiding Americans, pandering on immigration will not help the GOP close the gap with Latino voters.
All polls of Latino voters show that immigration ranks fairly far down on their list of concerns, far below bread and butter economic issues.
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Ironically, Rubio himself acknowledged that political reality as he tight-roped his way through an interview with Juan Williams on Fox News Latino.
After 15 minutes of revealing nothing about his version of the DREAM Act, Rubio finally said something that made sense. Rubio noted that most Latinos hail from countries where governments run the economies, and do it poorly. If Republicans want to woo Latino voters, Rubio suggested, the best way to do it is to offer them “economic empowerment.”
Economic empowerment, whether it comes from Republicans or Democrats, is not only a pretty good platform to win Latino votes, but just about everyone else’s vote.
Pandering to Latino voters with the DREAM Act 2.0 not only won’t impress voters who are committed to amnesty for illegal aliens, but would only exacerbate the problem of illegal immigration.
Dan Stein is president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, a national non-profit organization that supports stricter enforcement of immigration laws.
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