Debate Forum Left 12/15/10

Mass exodus unrealistic; stop wasting time and pass the DREAM Act

By Ben Tompkins

Benjamin Tomkins

I don’t think there’s much to argue with concerning the nuts and bolts of the DREAM Act. It’s been very carefully written and rewritten to ensure that it applies to an extremely narrow slice of the population: the applicants must register with the federal government, have come to the U.S. as children, have lived here for at least five years, complete two years of college or military service, and be of “good moral standing,” which really means “if we don’t like you, we’ll find a excuse to exclude you.” If for any reason the applicant should displease us or fail to meet our requirements at any point in the process, they will be immediately removed from the list and deported.

Furthermore, the DREAM Act makes it explicitly difficult for people who attain citizenship through this process to sponsor the citizenship applications of their family members. Once an applicant becomes a citizen, they have to wait 10 years to begin the sponsorship process, which already has a waiting list a decade long.

So having read the bill, I’m confident that it’s written well enough to produce the intended results with a minimum of side effects. Therefore, I feel justified in abandoning an argument of implementation for one of altruism, and in this instance, I think there’s some heft there. Children are at the mercy of their parents and if their parents decide to break a law, their child is innocently caught up in that decision. If a child thrust into these circumstances makes the very best of it, becomes a fine, upstanding citizen and serves our country militarily, I personally think they’ve earned the right. For that matter, serving in the military has always been considered a reasonable price for citizenship and I think it is well worth asking ourselves the question “what more could we have expected from ourselves in similar circumstances?”

That being said, I find the problem with altruistic arguments is that they ultimately occupy tenuous ground. For instance, I had a colleague write the following line in challenge to my position on a topic:

“What kind of human being would be against the idea of ‘X’?”

Well … the risk with that statement is, if your opponent has a very good reason for being against ‘X’, you have invited them to make you look like a whiner, or worse, stupid. And in the case of the DREAM Act, altruism will ALWAYS have to deal with the argument that these people are here illegally. That’s very, very powerful, and as such, I don’t think altruism alone is convincing. If we all agree that illegal immigration is a bad thing, why does legislation like the DREAM Act, which appears to incentivize this behavior, continue to find bipartisan congressional support and solid backing from every single president from Reagan to Obama? If you think about it, it’s a very strange situation because politicians are not known for staking their careers on altruism.

The reason is actually painfully obvious. Whether illegal immigrants have citizenship or not, they aren’t going anywhere. You can put a wall up around the border, you can pass hardliner laws like Arizona, but we simply cannot remove 11 million people from our country. And we can sit in a room by ourselves furiously gnawing on our frustrations like a squirrel devouring a petrified acorn, but all the talk in the world isn’t going to change the fact that mass exodus simply isn’t an option. Rather than waste our time ruminating, let’s take the next best solution and pass legislation like the DREAM Act, which encourages illegal immigrants to educate themselves and become valuable citizens.

But that’s what’s really messed up about our situation. We’ve made our bed with cheap goods produced by illegal immigrants who work for slave wages and now we’re crying foul because we have to sleep in it. Be honest with yourselves, you do realize that low prices aren’t the result of well-paid workers with health insurance, right? That’s why the vast majority of legislation pertaining to illegal immigration focuses on punishing the immigrants, rather than the company that hires them. Crucify the individual but perpetuate the system by placating the public with cheap fruit.

Our unwillingness to address the corporate root of our problem has resulted in not just adults, but a whole generation of children growing up off the social grid. These children are blameless in our lust for affordable low-quality chicken breasts and by disallowing them meaningful participation in our society, we are heaping the burden of our own sins upon them.

Personally, it makes me sick to think that our society is perfectly willing to civilly orphan a child in the name of greed and passing legislation like the DREAM Act represents our first steps towards true responsibility for our choices.

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