The Death of a DREAM

Everyone can breathe a sigh of relief. America will not be destroyed. The undocumented children living in the United States will stay in the shadows and margins of society where they belong. Sure, we’ll be forced to give them a high school education – heck, we give anyone a high school education whether they deserve it by birth-right or not – but they won’t go using it to get a college education or a tax-paying job.

As I predicted – and I need not have been much of a prophet to do it – the DREAM Act failed to get enough votes in the Senate to move the bill forward. Only three Republicans dared to support it – lame duck Bob Bennett of Utah, undefeatable Dick Lugar of Indiana, and the write-in re-elected Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Even former sponsors Orin Hatch and John McCain felt too much heat from the fear-mongerers to continue their support.

The opponents of a productive future for undocumented children demanded all sorts of concessions in the bill to which sponsors acquiesced, including attaching hefty fees for those wanting to apply for conditional residency under the Act, narrowing the eligible age group, making sure the relatives of those using the Act could never gain residency though sponsorship like those of other legal residents, and extending the period of conditional residency from six to ten years before someone under the act could apply (again with hefty fees, lots of complicated paperwork, and up to a year-long wait) for permanent residency (which would then have to be followed by another five years before being eligible to pay more fees, file more paperwork, and wait months for citizenship).  Yet despite having all the demands met to water down the bill, those who made the demands still refused to vote to let the bill be considered.

I was particularly disappointed by the excuses given by the Senators from my home state of Texas. John Cornyn said, “I am sympathetic to the plight of children who have no moral culpability for being in this country illegally and I support the intent of the bill today, but not this legislation and not this way.” Unfortunately, he didn’t say which legislation and which way would allow him to vote with his sympathies.

Kay Bailey Hutchinson opted for a outright lie rather than Cornyn’s ambiguous drivel. She said, “I could not support the DREAM Act legislation brought before the Senate today because it expanded the scope of the bill beyond the intended individuals who were brought here as children and were educated in the United States.” Not only is that made up out of whole cloth, but the real reason Hutchinson could not support the bill was because she had been threatened by conservatives. After all, when a much broader bill was before the Senate in 2007 she said,

“This is such an important piece of legislation, and I do think this is isolated from the entire immigration issue because there … are young people who have been brought to this country as minors, not of their own doing, who have gone to American high schools, graduated, and who want to go to American colleges. They are in a limbo situation. I believe we should deal with this issue. We should do it in a way that helps assimilate these young people with a college education into our country. They have lived here most of their lives. If we sent them home, they wouldn’t know what home is. There is a compassionate reason for us to try to work this out.”

In the meantime, she alienated the furthest right-wing of the GOP in running against Rick Perry and can’t afford to lose their support in 2012. Somebody has to pay the price and it is certainly easiest to put it on those who have no voice and if her supporters have their way, will never have a voice.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Proverbs 31:8-9

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The Greatest Entitlement

Americans, for the most part, do not like the idea of someone getting something for nothing. You want something, you pay for it. We conservatives especially cringe at the idea of entitlements.

Except for citizenship. For most Americans, the best citizenship is free citizenship. Sure, we are happy to let a few selected customers pay for a second-class version of it, but for the vast majority, it is something that neither has to be earned nor purchased.

Those few who pay for it also have to prove they deserve it. They have to spend a lot of money and go through a complicated process just to prove they should be allowed to even get the chance to earn it. Once that hurdle it overcome, they have to contribute to the economy for a specified period of time during which they can be thrown out of the country at the caprice of a judge or a legislature. They have to pass an exam to show that they know enough to become a real American. They have to pay another considerable amount of money to the Government, in addition to anything they pay to a lawyer to help them find their way through the maze of naturalization.

Wouldn’t it be the real American way to make everyone pay for it? Why not make the right to vote contingent on passing an exam and paying a $680 fee? Why should people get this for nothing just because they happened to be born in the US or have parents who happened to be born American? After all, many of these people have not contributed anything to the economy and for some even their parents have contributed nothing.

If we are going to deny millions of willing, working people the opportunity to even pay their way to citizenship then it only seems right that those who are not assets to the country should not be deciding its future as an entitlement of the accident of birth.

Why We Can’t Afford to Outlaw Abortion

In these difficult times, when we are trying to get public spending under control and balance state and federal budgets, in addition to keeping the economy going, it’s a good thing we have legal abortion. Maintaining the access to abortion is the only fiscally responsible thing to do. It’s the truly conservative approach. The evidence is so overwhelming, I’m sure you will have to agree with me.

First, abortion is an industry. We need all the industry we can get. It keeps lots of people employed. In 2005, there were 1,787 abortion providers in the US. Each one of those equals a group of doctors and nurses, orderlies, receptionists, clerks and office cleaners. You know, people with jobs who then pay taxes and buy things from other businesses that pay taxes, and so on. I can’t get figures for the size of the whole abortion industry, but just Planned Parenthood generates revenue of over $1 billion each year. After paying all of its expenses, including all of those salaries and supporting the pharmaceutical and medical supply industries, it runs a net profit of between 8% and 10%.

But second, and more importantly, we have to look at the cost of all of the children who wouldn’t be aborted. There are about 1.2 million abortions performed in the US each year. That number does not include the morning-after pill, because there’s no way of telling how many abortions that has induced. If you just add that there is a lot more than 1.2 million, you’ll have the picture, but we’ll use the lower number for illustrative purposes.

If there were 1.2 million more babies each year, that would mean 1.2 million more children in each grade in our public schools. Schools are generally funded by property taxes, which these addition children would not be generating. The tax base would stay the same, while the numbers of pupils wouldn’t. Spread across grade K-12, that’s 15.6 million additional students.

But it doesn’t stop there. If all of those 12th graders then go to college, that’s an additional 1.2 million college students each year, mostly going to state colleges and universities. Most of those will go to colleges and universities in their home states. You know what that means: in-state tuition subsidized by state budgets. That would place an unreasonable burden on taxpayers. It also means that they will be taking the places of students who were going to be born anyway and should be entitled to those places and the financial aid that goes with them. Is that fair to the wanted children of our states?

It gets worse. Those who would have been aborted will be competing for jobs with those who were wanted, both amongst their peers and those already in the workplace. They will be putting wanted people out of work – people who are entitled to those jobs by birth.

We then have to consider the overall political impact. The only reasons a political party would oppose abortion would be to have those who are not aborted vote for them. An additional 1.2 million eligible voters each year will reduce the voting power of those who already have the right to vote. This could change the outcome of elections.

No, clearly we have to support those who are rightfully born and wanted. It’s the responsible thing to do.

If you can’t see my point, all I can say is that you clearly have not read enough Jonathan Swift.

The Impossible DREAM

It appears there will be a token vote, perhaps as soon as tomorrow in the House of Representatives, on the frequently defeated Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act before the end of the lame duck session of Congress. I don’t know if the House has the votes, but the Senate won’t get past a cloture vote, so it’s a moot point.

Nonetheless, it’s litmus test time again.  Time to pull out all the talking points and treat them with the sacredness of Holy Scripture. It’s “amnesty by the back door,” “amnesty by the front door,” “amnesty by climbing in through the window,” etc. I just wish Holy Scripture was treated with the same sacredness.

The DREAM Act would allow children who were brought to the United States by undocumented parents to walk a narrow path to conditional permanent residency and eventually to full permanent resident status. Applying criteria we would never think of applying to those who providentially arrived on the planet north of the Rio Grande – especially if their parents were also so blessed in their own arrival – a few people will received a few opportunties they wouldn’t otherwise have. Of course the hitch is that the oppotunities will completely transform their lives. If there’s one thing we don’t like, it is people having their lives transformed when they don’t deserve it.

Other than the possibility of living out of the shadows and fringes of society, one of the aspects that irks opponents is the possibility that those for whom the DREAM Act is intended will be considered eligible for in-state college tuition. More than one commentator has asked why these people should get the benefit of resident fees when American citizen students from other states don’t. It could be because they are from out of state and aren’t  in the state for other the educational purposes. That’s the usual criteria. But this is a matter that will be decided by the individual states, or even the individual institutions or university systems, depending on how individual states have chosen to operate that decision making process.

One of the more outrageous comments I heard in opposition to the DREAM Act was that it was like letting the children of bank robbers benefit from the proceeds of their parents’ crime. However, this comment highlights a serious misconception that a lot of people seem to have. Legal residency isn’t a property right. Even citizenship is not a property right. It is not a possession. It is a legal status. There isn’t a big citizenship pie which can only be cut into so many pieces, so that only so many people can have some. If that were the case, we would need to consider imposing Chinese-style limits on the number children allowed in each family.

Undocumented aliens haven’t stolen anything by being undocumented. They haven’t stolen safety from drug lords and corrupt government officials. They haven’t stolen the possibility to work for food and shelter. They haven’t stolen the fear of detection that could lead them to being sent back to a place of danger and poverty. Were the DREAM Act to become law, they wouldn’t be stealing a chance at legal residency.

Status is an interesting thing. I was reading yesterday about the changes in the pecking order at Court due to the introduction of Kate Middleton into the British Royal Family. Particularly amongst the ladies, princesses mostly, there seems to be a great deal of concern as to who will now have to curtsey to whom and under what conditions, chiefly revolving around whose husband is in the room at the time. It is easy to look down our egalitarian noses at such nonsense.

But are we anything from outraged to at least a bit irritated that undocumented aliens, whether adults or children, would acquire a status, whether permanent residency or even citizenship, to which they are not entitled? Yet status is something about which the Bible reveals God is very interested. It also uses the analogy of robbery:

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

So how do we filter our attitude toward undocumented residents through Philippians 2? Is it useful only in “spiritual matters” or how we treat each other in church? Is this one of those areas where our Christianity and our politics need not meet? Do we bifurcate our responsibilities as a Christian with our responsibilities as a member of the body politic? Are we willing to wash the feet of our undocumented brother and then ring up ICE to pick him up and deport him?

But say it’s nothing to do with Jesus. (Say it at your own peril, but say it nonetheless.) Let’s say it’s just economics. Won’t passage of the DREAM Act lead to all these barely-legal aliens flooding our state colleges and universities, taking away places from natural born (and even those despised anchor baby) citizens? And since they tend to be poorer than rightful Americans, won’t they then be stealing all the financial aid?

I suppose there is an argument to be made for keeping an uneducated social and legal underclass in America. After all, they aren’t going anywhere. Despite all the calls for rounding up every undocumented resident and shipping them to the nearest international bridge and forcing them to walk across at gunpoint, logistically it isn’t going to happen, regardless of which political party is making policy. Likewise, they are not going to voluntarily “go back” to a country most haven’t seen since early childhood. And there are all those necessary jobs that just wouldn’t exist within the constraints of exisiting labor laws, so if we let all these people become legal, who will do the work beneath the dignity of most citizens?

One of the arguments made against the DREAM Act by people like William Gheen of the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC is that by allowing the narrow group of qualifying individuals (not that ALIPAC would ever characterize them in such a way) to obtain permanent resident status, they will then be able to bring more relatives into the US legally. But I thought that was what they wanted in the first place: legal immigrants. Thus they expose their agenda, which is really about keeping immigrants out altogether.

Here’s what Gheen said on FoxNews about the beneficiaries of the DREAM Act: “If these illegal aliens, millions of them, are turned into citizens, what it’s gonna do, it’s gonna displace and replace millions of innocent American college students; it’s gonna displace and replace millions, perhaps tens of millions, of American workers; it’s gonna displace and replace millions, eventually, as you said, tens of millions of American voters.”

The best estimates seem to indicate that there are about 65,000 undocumented students graduating from US high schools each year. So we’ve gone from millions to thousands. But graduating from high school isn’t enough. The DREAM Act requires them to also get at least an associate’s degree, complete two years toward a bachelor’s degree, or serve two years in the military during six years of conditional residency. They are ineligible to receive federal financial aid toward their education. They must also keep their nose clean. If they do all that, they are eligible for permanent residency – LPR status with what is commonly called a green card (though the card itself is not green). Permanent residency petitions normally take in excess of a year to process, so really they are looking at seven years of conditional reisidency. LPRs, who must also stay crime-free to maintain their status, become eligible for citizenship after five years. So yes, it is possible for several thousand college-educated or veteran children of illegal immigrants to become citizens after a twelve-year process.

So in reality, the number of students are a drop in the ocean of higher education in the US, where there are over 19 million enrolled. Yes, they will eventually join the job market competing for jobs, but it will be hard to “displace and replace” millions of workers with a few thousand immigrants.

How they are going “displace and replace” voters, I have no clue. As far as I’m aware, there is no competition for the eligibility to vote. A 30-year-old veteran of the US military who was born in Mexico showing up at a polling station will not force election officials to tell a Son of the American Revolution, “Sorry, but you are no longer allowed to vote, as we have to let this new citizen vote, since he got his citizenship under the DREAM Act.” What utter nonsense.

The last bit of nonsense that needs to be addressed is the objection raised by a number of opponents, namely, that we need comprehensive immigration reform rather than a piecemeal approach. If there was any real will in the Republican Party for any sort of immigration reform, this might have a shread of credibility. The only immigration reform desired by most non-Hispanic Republicans is to build the wall higher with enough guns pointed to Mexico to stop new arrivals combined with more aggressive efforts to flush out undocumented immigrants domiciled in the US. The DREAM Act will be rejected now and forever because it does not fit this agenda.

Yet, I can’t get Philippians 2 out of my mind.