Welcome to Round 4 of a debate over the DREAM act between Will Wilkinson and myself.
DREAM is an immigration measure that offers US citizenship to illegal aliens who entered the United States before the age of 16.
With Wilkinson’s Round 3, the debate takes an ugly turn. Among other disobliging personal remarks, Wilkinson repeatedly accuses me of lying, and then for good measure accuses me of “goading the nativist rabble.”
I’ll answer Will Wilkinson’s specific points, but I first have to say this: Wilkinson’s mode of arguing exemplifies why the immigration debate doesn’t ever seem to go anywhere.
Advocates of more and more immigration habitually use a 4-stage method best identified by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn in the Yes Minister series. The stages go as follows:
1) Nothing is going to happen.
2) Something may be about to happen, but we should do nothing about it.
3) Maybe we should do something about it, but there’s nothing we *can* do.
4) Maybe there was something we could have done, but it’s too late now.
Immigration proponents are so convinced that more immigration is good in itself that they do not always worry as much as they should about the way in which they achieve their aims. They sell huge society-changing transformations as small incremental steps.
When the sales pitch proves wrong or hugely exaggerated, they seem untroubled. Wilkinson’s own blitheness perfectly exemplifies the pattern. Running through his first post is a persistent undertone that the very idea of immigration laws is a big mistake. “Yes, the DREAM Act also incentivises illegal activity. But if the activity is not one that ought to be illegal, perhaps we should consider changing the law?”
Then when I point out the various ways in which this incentive operates, he squawks that the law in fact is “narrowly tailored” and applies only to “a relatively small group.”
Is it too Freudian to suspect that the lurid accusation of deceit repeatedly lodged by Will Wilkinson reveal an awareness of the credibility problems on his side of the argument?
My goal was to see beyond the advertising materials, to understand how the law would work in practice. I offered 3 ways that DREAM could benefit many, many people beyond the supposedly “narrowly targeted” designated beneficiaries.
Let’s look again at my 3 ways that DREAM might be abused. But since I’m going to proceed slower and with more detail than in my first post, I’d better break up the argument into parts to ease the burden on the reader.
Here’s case 1.
The language of the DREAM law offers benefits to people who arrived in the US after age 16 or who arrived before 16, but have spent less than the required 5 years in the United States.
I suggested that this language created some interesting possibilities for fraud. Perhaps the illegal immigrant arrived after age 16. He could still file an application, only with his birthday altered.
If the illegal immigrant is lucky, the fraud would deceive the authorities. It’s generally agreed that north of one-quarter of all the legalizations in the last amnesty, 1986, were fraudulent.
But even if the false information does not deceive the authorities, it can still be useful to the illegal immigrant. DREAM forbids the Department of Homeland Security to use material provided under DREAM in deportation proceedings. So if apprehended after filing his false application, the would-be immigrant can argue: “This proceeding is tainted! You would never have found me if I had not applied for the benefits of DREAM.”
The illegal argument might or might not succeed. But as I said in my original post, DREAM creates a great one-way option: a new set of legal tools to delay, impede and outright thwart enforcement actions. And given the crushing overburden of cases that paralyzes immigration enforcement in the United States, a deportation delayed is very nearly good as a deportation prevented.
Wilkinson seems to have entirely failed to grasp this point. Perhaps I expressed myself poorly. Wilkinson says: “If you’re in the country illegally and don’t qualify for DREAM, how does DHS’s inability to use bunk info in your DREAM application keep them from deporting you exactly as they would had you not filed some crooked papers?”
But what matters of course is DHS’s inability to use the truthful information mixed with the false information. DREAM creates a kind of Miranda right for illegal immigrants – and it’s very reasonable to fear that this new right will benefit many people beyond Wilkinson’s imagined few.