Post 2.7 - American Dreams

This article isn't going to make me any friends. In fact, I might even lose a few readers. I know it will surprise a great many of you. In any case, I urge you to read the entire article, and engage me in the comments if you disagree. That's what this experiment is supposed to be about.

On May 14th, Arizona State University held their hispanic convocation, graduating Latino students. Many of these students are illegal immigrants, and were concerned about their prospects following graduation as they would not only have difficulty finding work in this economy, but by law, are not permitted to work. Many of these students explained to local news reporters that they were brought here as children by their parents, and had no choice in the matter. The same week, the DREAM Act was re-introduced in Congress, and if passed, would give these students a path to citizenship.

The DREAM act website lists the following criteria for conditional permanent residency, should the act be passed:
  • Must have entered the United States before the age of 16 (i.e. 15 and younger)
  • Must have been present in the United States for at least five (5) consecutive years prior to enactment of the bill
  • Must have graduated from a United States high school, or have obtained a GED, or have been accepted into an institution of higher education (i.e. college/university)
  • Must be between the ages of 12 and 35 at the time of application
  • Must have good moral character
If these criteria are met, and the Act passes, the illegal ("undocumented") immigrant would then have to do the following:
  1. Apply for the DREAM Act (Since the legislation has not yet passed, there are no specific guidelines on how to apply)
  2. Once approved and granted Conditional Permanent Residency, the individual would have to do one of the following:
    1. Enroll in an institution of higher education in order to pursue a bachelor's degree or higher degree or
    2. Enlist in one of the branches of the United States Military
  3. Within 6 years of approval for conditional permanent residency, the individual must have completed at least two (2) years of one of the options outlined in the previous step
  4. Once 5 ½ years of the 6 years have passed, the individual will then be able to apply for Legal Permanent Residency (dropping the conditional part) and consequently will be able to apply for United States Citizenship
Those who have already completed at least 2 years of college education towards a bachelor's degree or higher degree, will still have to wait the 5 ½ years in order to apply for Legal Permanent Residency even though you may have already obtained a degree.
Students who do not complete the requirements will be disqualified .
I am a progressive, a liberal, and a registered Democrat -- and I have a few problems with this.

First, while it's a nice spin, these individuals are illegal not undocumented -- their presence and status here is not the result of a clerical error or misfiled paperwork.

Second, I agree with the premise that as children, these students and others like them had no voice in the decision to cross the US border illegally. However, the typical age for college graduation is 22 -- where have the immigration authorities been in the meantime? Why did none of these students make an effort to address their situation before now? Not even a student visa? Even the DREAM Act website lists alternatives.

And what are the legal ramifications for the parents of these children or the people who brought them here, i.e., the people who did break the law of their own free will? Amnesty? Deportation? Imprisonment? A fine?

I published a somewhat involved article recently regarding my own genealogy. Three of my four grandparents were immigrants. I am not anti-immigrant. Even those in my family who came here as immigrants did not all pursue citizenship. And among those who did pursue citizenship, some waited years. But all immigrated to the United States legally, and were legal permanent residents.

I speak multiple languages, and I have friends and family from multiple countries, including some in my own generation who are legal immigrants from South America, Mexico, India, and across Europe. This is not an immigration issue, but a legal one.

I have been presented with the argument that the method by which one becomes a resident or citizen of the United States is complicated and difficult, and I don't disagree. But why shouldn't it be? And why is the solution to simply ignore the laws because you don't like them or they're too hard? And then have the solution to disobeying the laws be amnesty? Or giving your children citizenship?

There is a serious disconnect here for me.

I lived in Europe for two years and was subject to the immigration laws of where I lived -- which meant obtaining a student visa during my first three months and carrying my government-issued identification with me at all times, as it could be requested by any law enforcement agent at any time (and it was, twice). It was not a user-friendly process, and it was not even in English. Fellow students who did not take care of these issues were deported when they tried to return after Christmas that first year. I currently hold a 10-year work visa for the Republic of India, and was rejected the first time I applied. It happens, and some rules and requests for information seem completely ridiculous, but these are the laws. If I want to live in a given country, study, work, or do any other activity the country's government wants to know about, I have to jump through the hoops that are set before me. If I don't, then I am going to face consequences.

And I don't feel there are any consequences with this law. Even if the parents are imprisoned or deported, as one example, I think many parents would be willing to do that in order to give their child a better life. So where is the deterrent? The way this law is written, if you are a child brought into this country before the age of 15, and you manage to go undetected for a specified period of time, and then get into college (with in-state tuition in some states!), you get a path to citizenship.

I do have sympathy for the children in these situations. I really do. I just don't think this is an effective solution, because it simply ignores a crime that has been committed.

And what about the people who have made the effort to jump through the US hoops? People who compete for a fixed number of work-visas and live from year-to-year not knowing, and ready to return to their own country when notified? People who follow all the rules to gain residency and work privileges for themselves and their children? What does this say to them? Something like, do what you need to -- when there are enough of you here who have ignored the law, we'll figure something out legislatively?

The issues surrounding immigration are numerous and complex, and they do need to be addressed. I do not think amnesty is appropriate. We tried that under Reagan, and we'll just be doing this all over again in the 2030s and 2040s if we grant a blanket amnesty again. I think there are issues of security that need to evaluated, and the entire process should be evaluated and streamlined thoughtfully, but these workarounds need to stop. And yes, there are people who are victims of human trafficking, and they should certainly be treated differently -- perhaps deported without criminal charges or records, so they could have a chance to return legally, if that is their wish.

But in the end, there needs to be real accountability for those who violate whatever laws are in place, and without that kind of deterrent, we are never going to solve the problem or be able to guarantee our security.

Have a question or suggestion for a topic? E-mail me at


  1. I don't agree with passing laws that tell people "If you didn't do your due diligence like everyone else, it's OK. You don't have to follow the rules because you're a special case." That encourages everyone to do whatever they want because they know following the rules is a waste of time.

    That said, this isn't a get out of jail free card. They have to work for the citizenship by either earning a degree or joining the military--while others applying for citizenship through regular channels do not.

    I wonder who gets to decided what good moral character is. I hope it's not a right-wing conservative.

    But why would this be a question of security--at least in relation to hispanics/latinos? Are we afraid the illegals will come in and cook our mexican food, pick our fruit, clean our homes, and open 24hr bodegas?

  2. Thanks for your comment, eclipse.

    This is a general security issue because it does not address border security at all. You're right, it isn't a question of hispanics/latinos - the legislation is not ethnicity-specific. So *anyone* who sneaks in, no matter where, would be eligible to use this legislation. This legislation accepts that we have a border like a sieve, and to me, says to everyone, you have a future if you don't get caught.

    Plenty of Americans as well as legal immigrants choose to earn a degree or join the military, or are simply productive members of American society. I do not see getting an education as "working for citizenship", since students ultimately benefit from the educational experience with or without citizenship. There are plenty of students who come to the US on a student visa for just that reason.


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