On Monday, Christine Neuman-Ortiz made news by getting arrested at Congressman Paul Ryan’s office in Racine. The Director of Voces de la Frontera refused to leave Ryan's office after closing hours because she wanted to make a "political statement" in support of the Dream Act.
Although I disagree with the manner in which Neuman-Ortiz made her statement, we agree that the Dream Act needs congressional support. After talking with Ryan about the Dream Act nearly two months ago, I am not convinced Republicans will support the bill without effecting serious “sequential” steps on the immigration front. And as we have witnessed in the past decade, it may take a while.
On a national and state level, the Dream Act has created a stir. Most Democrats support it, most Republicans oppose it, and it’s likely to stall in the Senate if it makes it that far. Senator Harry Reid has not helped the situation by pushing through four versions of the Dream Act with little oversight.
The Dream Act (at least the most recent public version of it) is a bill written to provide undocumented individuals an opportunity to gain conditional permanent residency. The key word is "conditional". To meet the conditions, undocumented individuals must have been in the U.S before the age of 16, have stayed the country for at least five years, must have a clean criminal record and must have completed at least two years of college toward a four-year degree and/or finished two years of military service leaving with an honorable discharge. As one can see, it’s not your typical free pass.
The Wall Street Journal, the most respected conservative newspaper in the country, gave an endorsement of the Dream Act and suggested that the GOP compromise on the Dream Act in a collective effort to tackle immigration reform. The compromise is a win-win situation, but they don’t seem to know it. Not only would supporting the measure help Republicans win Latino support in the Mountain West states like Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico, but it encourages hard work and military service. The WSJ summed it up this way,
"Restrictionists dismiss the Dream Act as an amnesty that rewards people who entered the country illegally. But the bill targets individuals brought here by their parents as children. What is to be gained by holding otherwise law-abiding young people, who had no say in coming to this country, responsible for the illegal actions of others? The Dream Act also makes legal status contingent on school achievement and military service, the type of behavior that ought to be encouraged and rewarded."
Far right blogger Michelle Malkin has called the Dream Act a "massive amnesty entitlement program". And like many on the far right that use the term “amnesty” or “entitlement”, Malkin doesn't know what she's talking about.
Amnesty is a free pardon from the penalty of a past crime or crimes. One could say that when a cop pulls you over for speeding and lets you off with a warning, that is a type of amnesty. However, if you have met certain conditions or requirements to avoid that penalty, then it's no longer amnesty; it's something like an exchange.
Second, the Dream Act is not an entitlement program, at least not in the ordinary sense of the word. Latinos get nothing special from the bill, and they certainly don't get anything for free. Quite the contrary, if the bill passes, undocumented immigrants get to freely join the military to protect the freedom of those like Malkin who wouldn’t hesitate to disparage them in the process. Also, Malkin should realize that without the Dream Act, the use of entitlement programs will likely increase.
And third, Malkin likes to talk about the rule of law and how the Dream Act rewards lawbreakers. Yet if there is anyone who hasn’t sped a little too fast, parked in a no parking zone or didn’t completely stop at a stop sign, then please throw the first stone. To use Malkin’s logic, the cop that lets you off with a warning must be destroying the rule of law and rewarding lawbreakers.
When it concerns the Dream Act, it is hypocritical to advocate the sanctity of the rule of law when it comes to illegal entry, but not when it involves other misdemeanors like traffic violations.
I am also disturbed by the argument that those who were brought to this country without a say should be penalized for the decisions made by their guardians. Instead of making the issue a matter of partisanship, detractors should see it as a way to grow our skilled workforce, increase military recruitment numbers and encourage success.
In the past century, it seems like we’ve gotten away from this message. America became the greatest nation on earth because she readily afforded immigrants of all nations the freedom to pursue individual prosperity. By denying the Dream Act and essentially making it harder to succeed, the only thing Congress will encourage is a permanent underclass.