The Dems’ DREAM Amnesty: Bigger Than
It Appears

December 1st, 2010 at 10:43 am David Frum | 6 Comments |

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This is the second part of a long reply to Will Wilkinson on the DREAM act. You can read the first part here.

When I first took up the DREAM debate, I noted 3 ways in which the law’s reach was far, far bigger than advertised.

The first way is the way that it encouraged fraud. DREAM creates new opportunities for an illegal immigrant to use fraudulent documents to gain amnesty (and remember, it’s generally agreed that one-quarter of the legalizations in the last amnesty, 1986, were fraudulent). Possibly even more important, DREAM creates new opportunities for an illegal immigrant to use fraud to halt proceedings against him. Suppose an immigrant files a DREAM application, lies about his birthday, but tells the truth about his address and the social security number he is using. His fraud is detected, and he is apprehended. He can argue that the deportation is fatally legally tainted, because the government cannot use against him the information he himself provided. This will at a minimum severely delay proceedings – and because the immigration system is so clogged – a delayed proceeding is almost as good as a halted proceeding.

Will Wilkinson didn’t seem to understand this point. He suggested instead: people who lie on their DREAM applications will be caught and deported, period. I say: he’s dreaming.

Now to the second point that Will Wilkinson does not understand (or perhaps: refuses to understand).

Will Wilkinson describes DREAM as narrowly targeted and affecting only a small population.

Depends I suppose what you mean by “small”: the Center for Immigration Studies estimates the potentially eligible population at over 1 million, even assuming no fraud.

Once naturalized, those 1 million people will gain the right to sponsor their relatives – including of course the parents who brought them to the country illegally. In other words, DREAM could very plausibly legalize a population as large as that legalized by the 1986 amnesty: 3 million.

Will Wilkinson has two answers to this point:

1) It will happen slowly and 2) it doesn’t matter.

The process by which our notional 40-year-old undocumented immigrant can become a citizen is precisely the same as the process by which Mr Frum’s Canadian father could become a citizen through Mr Frum’s sponsorship. It’s not amnesty, and Mr Frum is simply goading the nativist rabble by choosing to misuse language in this way.

The first point may be right, we’ll see, but I don’t know why we should attach much weight to it.

The second is just breathtakingly defiant of reality. DREAM starts a process by which millions of people who could never otherwise qualify for legalization in the United States will qualify. They may not be directly amnestied themselves, but it is because of amnesty – and only because of amnesty – that they will become legal US residents over how long the process takes.

Will Wilkinson’s personal reference here only underscores the importance of the very thing he says doesn’t matter.

A sound immigration policy can be a very powerful force for social improvement. A Canadian-style immigration policy that emphasizes skills and that attracts immigrants who pay more in taxes than they consume in services strengthens the nation. But American immigration policy has steadily lowered the country’s skill levels (see the ETS report predicting the American workforce will actually decline in basic literacy over the next decades as a result of current immigration policy). US-style immigration policy increases demands for government services, including health care subsidies. (More than 1 in 4 of the uninsured are foreign born.) US-style immigration policy has intensified inequality, as we import millions of people whose families are likely to remain poor into the second and third generation, even the fourth generation. (See Telles & Ortiz, Generations of Exclusion.)

I’m not going to sponsor my father into the US. (My US citizen mother could have done that if my father had been interested.) But it’s just fanciful to imagine that the secondary beneficiaries of the DREAM amnesty will be substantial taxpayers. The parents and siblings of the people who will be amnestied under DREAM will be poorly educated, low-skilled, and likely to qualify for a range of services from food stamps to Section 8 housing to Medicaid and then very likely Medicare and Social Security. DREAM means millions of new claimants on US public services and billions of dollars in new costs for the federal government and the states. As CIS calculates today, simply the subsidies for DREAM beneficiaries’ college tuitions will cost $6.2 billion a year.

Dismissing such serious concerns as unworthy of notice does not become a debater who is as quick as Will Wilkinson to issue flamboyant but false accusations of deception and ignorance. Again, such behavior is more like advertising than arguing.

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6 Comments so far ↓

  • Chekote

    Mr. Frum

    I respectfully suggest that your consider other sources besides CIS, a group that is dedicated to stopping all immigration. They have a strong point of view and their research is designed to support their point of view rather than promoting sound policy.

  • Carney

    CIS is an excellent resource.

    And we need to end chain migration, or family sponsorships. Just about every high achiever has a loser sibling, or in-law. Why bring in people who would otherwise not qualify to be here? Ironically the fiercest defenders of this policy are sure to be those who pontificate the loudest about how America is a nation not defined by blood or ancestry.

  • Pablo

    “A sound immigration policy can be a very powerful force for social improvement. A Canadian-style immigration policy that emphasizes skills and that attracts immigrants who pay more in taxes than they consume in services strengthens the nation. But American immigration policy has steadily lowered the country’s skill levels…”

    What is breathtaking about Frum’s objections to the DREAM Act is that he seems to completely miss the objective of that piece of legislation. American immigration policy favors non-skilled workers? Hence, the need for the DREAM Act which gives students who do well on their SAT’s and achieve good grades in school an opportunity to go to college and not be classified as said “unskilled worker.”

    But sadly, Mr. Frum is against the DREAM Act even if he has to come up with far fetched, worst case scenarios to rationalize his position.

  • politicalfan

    Mr. Frum,
    Would you stop with the amnesty ploy or just ask Palin to scream amnesty- please ask her to scream amnesty. (Colorado, Nevada, and CA)

    Reagen gave 3 million amnesty. Silly rumors. Frum he will never grant amnesty at this point with a Republican Congress coming in-

    Why does the Republican party always write letters? “Dear President Obama, we are not your friend. Give us what we want, put a check in the box. Signed Republican party.”

    Frum doesn’t this bug you a little. I think the R’s are smart but silly sometimes.
    i.e. the bottom letter to Dear Mr. President. Who falls for some of this stuff?

  • Lizzie

    David Frum,

    You should read what is happening in Canada before you post.

    “Bill C-49 would increase the minimum fines and jail terms for those caught bringing illegal aliens to Canada.

    However, the proposed legislation would also affect the people being smuggled. Refugees could spend as much as a year in detention facilities while their claims were being processed.

    In its current form, the legislation punishes “the victims, not the criminals,” Ignatieff said.

  • jamie4usa

    I pray to God that this dream act passes. I’ve been in the US since I was 7 years old. When my parents immigrated to the states they went on the right path to get their citizenship but during the process the attorney who was dealing their case never filed for extension of their I-94.(I-94:Is a card that tell a person how long they can stay in the US before returning home or applying for citizenship.) The lawyer had already taken $5000 from my parents for filing our family’s case.Due to the lawyer not applying for an extension we became illegal and he never gave us our money back. I’m 20 years old now I cant go to college or join the United States Air Force or any branch of military. I have taken many practice ASVAB test and my scores are always close to 75-80. God bless America! I would die for this country.THIS IS MY COUNTRY AND ALWAYS WILL BE
    *I volunteer at the local free medical clinic.
    *I donate to money to local and national charities.
    *I donate blood,I don’t drink,smoke.
    *English is the only language I know how to read and write.
    *All the money I do make I spend it in the United States because this is my home.
    *please you don’t have to have sympathy for me but just think about my situation.