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The plain truth about the DREAM ACT

Published on 12/14/2010 by

We’re being deluged by the right wing whackos who have this untenable dream of a white America, and who continue to daily, put out sophomoric press releases claiming it will legalize millions, lead to immediate influx of voters and other equally stupid fantasies.

What does the DREAM ACT as written and passed in the House of Representatives really provide?

Forget what ALIPAC and NUMBERSUSA are trying to trick you into believing. This is what the DREAM ACT is about:

The DREAM ACT:
1. Does not repeal the ban on in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. The DREAM Act does not force states to charge in-state tuition rates for illegal immigrants. The DREAM Act possibly would allow illegal immigrants to gain access to Federal Pell Grants and other financial aid.

2. Lowers the age cap for eligibility for the DREAM Act to 29 on the date of enactment. Additionally, in order to be eligible, individuals still must have come to the U.S. as a child (15 or under) and be a long-term resident (at least 5 years). An earlier version of the DREAM Act (S. 1545 in the 108th Congress), authored by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch and cosponsored by Senator John McCain, did not include any age cap. This bill was approved by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee on a 16-3 vote.

3. Does not grant legal immigrant status to anyone for at least 2 years. Previous versions of the DREAM Act would have immediately granted legal immigrant status to individuals who met the bill’s requirements. Under S. 3992, an individual could obtain “conditional nonimmigrant” status if he proves that he meets the age (currently 29 or under and arrived in the U.S. at 15 or under) and residency requirements (5 years or more) and:

  • Has graduated from an American high school or obtained a GED;
  • Has been a person of “good moral character,” as determined by the Department of Homeland Security, from the date the individual initially entered the U.S. (previous versions of the DREAM Act only required an individual to be a person of good moral character from the date of the bill’s enactment);
  • Submits biometric information;
  • Undergoes security and law-enforcement background checks;
  • Undergoes a medical examination; and
  • Registers for the Selective Service.

4. Further limits eligibility for conditional nonimmigrant status by specifically excluding anyone who:

  • Has committed one felony or three misdemeanors;
  • Is likely to become a public charge;
  • Has engaged in voter fraud or unlawful voting;
  • Has committed marriage fraud;
  • Has abused a student visa;
  • Has engaged in persecution; or
  • Poses a public health risk.

5. Gives a conditional non-immigrant the chance to earn legal immigrant status only after 2 years and only if he meets the DREAM Act’s college or military service requirements, and other requirements, e.g., pays back taxes and demonstrates the ability to read, write, and speak English and demonstrates knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history, principles, and form of government of the United States.

6. Further limits “chain migration.” DREAM Act individuals would have very limited ability to sponsor family members for U.S. citizenship. They could never sponsor extended family members and they could not begin sponsoring parents or siblings for at least 12 years. Parents and siblings who entered the U.S. illegally would have to leave the country for ten years before they could gain legal status and the visa backlog for siblings is decades long.

7. Specifically excludes non-immigrants from the health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act. Conditional non-immigrants also would be ineligible for Medicaid, Food Stamps and other entitlement programs.

8. Establishes a one-year application deadline. An individual would be required to apply for conditional nonimmigrant status within one year of obtaining a high school degree or GED, being admitted to college, or the bill’s date of enactment.

9. Requires anyone applying for the DREAM Act to show that he is likely to qualify in order to receive a stay of deportation while his application is pending. The DREAM Act is not a safe harbor from deportation.

10. Requires the Department of Homeland Security to provide information from an individual’s DREAM Act application to any federal, state, tribal, or local law enforcement agency, or intelligence or national security agency in any criminal investigation or prosecution or for homeland security or national security purposes.

11. Places the burden of proof on a DREAM Act applicant. An individual would be required to demonstrate eligibility for the DREAM Act by a preponderance of the evidence.

It’s the furthest thing from “Amnesty” that you can get and provides a long and difficult road for the applicant to succeed. Not all that apply will succeed. But those that do will be an asset to America.

At its own peril, GOP opposes DREAM Act

For all the loose talk of “amnesty” in the immigration debate, proposals to grant a path to legalization for adult immigrants who entered or remained in the United States illegally were never true amnesty. The Bush plan included hefty fines for all transgressors – which, by definition, is not amnesty – as well as requiring them to pay back taxes, undergo criminal checks, learn English and go to the back of the citizenship line.

But the DREAM Act is amnesty in the most meritorious sense. Many of those eligible to participate came as babes in arms or as young children. While their parents committed a civil offense – not a criminal one, as many people seem, wrongly, to believe – the kids had no choice in the matter. Nonetheless, this amnesty would not be automatic; it would be earned. Only those who successfully completed at least two years of college or military service would be eligible – and they would have to show good moral character.

Do Republicans really want to tell young people who’ve lived here most of their lives, who may speak no other language but English and who are even willing to sacrifice themselves on the battlefield: “We don’t want you”?

What are the alternatives – let them continue to live in the shadows or deport them? Not even the most aggressively anti-immigration groups are calling for the latter. (With the exception of William Gheen & ALIPAC)

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich recently called for a “zone between deportation and amnesty” for illegal immigrants, which would allow them to work in the country. Gingrich is a rock-hard conservative, but he recognizes that the hard line that has come to dominate the GOP’s stance on immigration poses problems for the future of the party, and he’s recently launched an outreach to Hispanics. That zone should encompass a path to legalization for the most worthy among illegal immigrants.

The refusal of all but a tiny handful of Republicans to vote for the DREAM Act will become a future nightmare. Hard-line anti-illegal immigrant rhetoric has already cost Republicans at least two U.S. Senate seats, Nevada and Colorado, even in a GOP landslide election. It could well cost Republicans the White House in 2012 – the Democrats are betting on it.

 
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