‘Gang of Two’ Ignore the Lessons of 2016 in Reviving DREAM Act

Amnesty-happy senators refuse to acknowledge immigration reform should serve the American people

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), one-fourth of the infamous Gang of Eight — which led the most recent effort to grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens — are at it again. The downsized gang is back with a downsized amnesty proposal that still misses the point the American people have been trying to impress upon Congress for decades.

Immigration reform is not about “making things right” for the people who broke our laws. It’s about making things right for the primary stakeholders in U.S. immigration policy: the American people.

Last week the “Gang of Two” resuscitated the DREAM Act (for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors), which has been around in one form or another since 2000 and was defeated in 2010, when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the White House, because of widespread public opposition. Graham and Durbin’s DREAM Act of 2017 would grant amnesty to illegal aliens who came or were brought to the United States illegally as minors.

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The premise of the DREAM Act is that this particular cohort of illegal aliens will be viewed most sympathetically by the American public. Obviously, people who were brought to the United States illegally as children cannot be held culpable for violating the law. More cynically, however, Graham and Durbin recognize that their ultimate goal — complete amnesty for virtually all illegal aliens — cannot be achieved in a comprehensive amnesty bill. Instead, they are attempting to break it up into bite-sized portions for a reluctant public and are serving up the DREAM Act as the appetizer.

While the American public does view those who were brought here as minors more sympathetically than other illegal aliens, they reject the underlying implication that the difficult situation the so-called Dreamers find themselves in is the fault of U.S. immigration laws that we are ethically obligated to rectify.

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The beneficiaries of the DREAM Act are not victims or bad or heartless immigration laws; they are victims of bad and illegal decisions their parents made. In that respect, the so-called Dreamers are no different from any other children who have paid a price for bad and illegal decisions by their parents.

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Although this iteration of the DREAM Act, like previous ones, applies only to illegal aliens who are already here, it would establish a precedent that almost guarantees recurring amnesties. If the premise of the legislation is that we are ethically obligated to reward this cohort of people who arrived here as minors, will we be any less obligated to do the same for the next wave of kids, or the one after that? We have already seen that President Obama’s informal (and unconstitutional) Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) amnesty touched off a surge of unaccompanied minors and families with children immediately after he implemented the program in 2012.

The need to secure our borders and restore the rule of law to immigration was a central domestic issue of the 2016 elections.

Donald Trump blew up the Republican establishment over it and rode it to victory last November. Sens. Graham and Durbin, along with Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and other congressional leaders, are still failing to internalize the message of the political upheaval of 2016.

In dealing with immigration, the first order of business must be to implement the people’s agenda. Congress must systematically eliminate all the rewards and incentives for people to come and remain in the United States illegally and institute rational legal immigration policies:

  • They must cut off the magnet of jobs by requiring that all employers use the highly effective E-Verify system to screen out illegal aliens.
  • The Senate must act on legislation that holds sanctuary jurisdictions that shield criminal aliens accountable.
  • Congress must fund the construction of the secure border fence that they promised and then promptly forgot about in 2006.
  • They must overhaul our legal immigration system so that we admit people based on an objective assessment of their likelihood to succeed, contribute and integrate into American society.

So far, they’ve accomplished none of these things. The American people have endured decades of failed policies and broken promises that have undermined their interests and security. There is a long list of immigration reforms that must be implemented in order to restore the public’s confidence that their interests are being protected. Another fruitless attempt at amnesty is not on that list.

Ira Mehlman is the media director for Federation for American Immigration Reform.

(photo credit, homepage images: Gage Skidmore, AMSF2011, Flikr; photo credit, article images: Gage Skidmore, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Flikr)

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