While immigration stayed at the forefront of national news, Democrat Harry Reid was busy at work attaching a measure known as the DREAM Act to the Defense Appropriations Bill. Unfortunately, the bill stalled in the Senate as Democrats fell four votes shy of the 60 they needed.
Part of the reason it failed, presumably, is that Reid had also partnered it with a repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" military policy. This addition would almost certainly guarantee that no GOP would support for the bill, which might have been intentional. Consequentially, several key Congressional Republicans criticized Reid for playing election politics saying he only introduced the measure to drum up Hispanic support for his reelection campaign in Nevada. Mind you, Hispanics make up 25% of the total population in Nevada, and Reid is in a fight for his political life with tea party favorite Sharon Angle. With just 6 weeks left before the November election,Reid's timing looks quite opportunistic.
Politics aside, something very important was lost this week. The DREAM Act is not about granting amnesty to those who cut to the front of the line. It's about children. Let me say this again so it is clear, it's about innocent children, who by no fault of their own, have become culturally American. Most of them have no awareness that they are undocumented or considered "illegal" until they apply for driver's license or perhaps financial aid. What choices do they have?
The DREAM act would provide undocumented students that graduate from high school a temporary residency conditioned on the choice that they either enter the military or put in at least two years of college toward a Bachelor's degree. The DREAM Act would only apply to those who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16 and have resided here continuously for at least 5 years. They must also have a clean criminal record. Sound reasonable?
Some Republicans have inaccurately labeled the measure an "Amnesty bill". This is not technically correct. The term Amnesty is derived from the Greek word "amnesia" meaning to forget. Amnesty signifies a "forgetting" of past offenses. In the legal world, however, pardons are not based on conditions. This means one doesn't have to do work to gain a free pardon from a judge or a governor.
Unlike a free pardon, the DREAM Act requires students to work for permanent citizenship by either fighting for their country or by bettering themselves through post-secondary education. So despite what talking heads like Vickie McKenna think, the DREAM Act doesn't fit the definition of amnesty simply because citizenship is based upon conditions.
Another misunderstanding is that the DREAM Act uses taxpayer dollars to fund or provide special tuition preferences to illegal aliens. The DREAM Act would repeal a 1996 federal law that, in some cases, restricts undocumented people the access to instate tuition reimbursement. In other words, the DREAM Act empowers states to make their own decisions, it does not afford undocumented students special benefits. We are looking for some equality, not entitlements.
There is a real disturbing trend in the GOP and organized labor where they elevate talking points above protecting the innocent. There are some on the right and in the brotherhood that have no difficulties deporting the children of undocumented people. Despite Harry Reid's efforts to advance his own campaign, we have an opportunity to show that conservatives can be reasonable on the issue of immigration reform.
Conservatives have long fought the battle of protecting innocent fetuses from abortions, but seem to turn a blind eye to innocent children, who did not ask to come to the U.S. For various reasons including civil war and corrupt government, their parents chose to transgress U.S. immigration law for something better. They live nearly their entire lives as Americans; this is the only country they know.
The DREAM Act also provides another benefit. While finding new recruits is a struggle, it will likely create a boon for military recruitment. The Pentagon believes that tying permanent legal citizenship to military services could open the floodgates to military recruitment by an additional 65,000 high school graduates every year. Of course, many could opt for a college degree instead.
From a conservative standpoint, it would be better to provide undocumented students equal opportunities to educate themselves or learn true discipline via the military. The DREAM Act would counter a spreading liberal disease known as entitlement-ism - a growing dependence on government. Conservatives can't in one vein criticize a growing culture of dependence while rejecting Congressional measures to stop it by promoting individual responsibility.