Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A conservative alternative to the DREAM Act

As conservatives, we acknowledge, and in fact celebrate, that the United States is a nation of laws. However, we also acknowledge that the United States is, and always has been, a nation of compassion. In fact, I would argue that the Unites States is arguably the most compassionate nation in the history of the world. I would also argue that while we embrace compassion with an open heart, we do, and must always, embrace our compassion with open eyes as well.

Therefore, we do have compassion for the children of immigrants who were brought here, through no fault of their own, illegally. For those children that in all other aspects played by the rules, excelled academically and have stayed on the straight and narrow, we do feel that they are a special case, and are most worthy of our compassion. After all, we embrace the tenet of Compassionate Conservatism. We believe that conservatism is a good thing -- a valuable thing. In our country, it is also a good thing -- some would say a prerequisite thing, and certainly a moral thing -- to allow our compassion to go hand in hand with our conservatism.

The Democratic version of the DREAM Act has been floating around the halls of Congress for over a decade, and has enjoyed a measure of bipartisan support. However, it has never enjoyed enough support to pass. We think that is because, at the end of the day, it provides a back-door amnesty to the undocumented parents of the undocumented children. Our coalition does not support amnesty, and as long as the undocumented children could someday file a petition to legalize their undocumented parents, we are divided on the DREAM Act.

However, a conservative alternative would solve that problem. A conservative DREAM Act would not provide for any path to citizenship, or even legal permanent residency status. It would allow these children to stay in this country as non-immigrants or guest workers. This offers a very relevant distinction; it provides no mechanism for the children to petition anyone, including their parents, to come to or stay in the United States. Therefore, there would be no amnesty for the parents, and no future “chain migration.”

I would add one caveat: the undocumented children that would otherwise qualify for this alternative DREAM Act that choose to serve for 4 years in the military should be given an opportunity to become citizens. Right now, these undocumented children are ineligible to serve in the military. This alternative DREAM Act would allow these young men and women to serve our country, and if they do, they should be eligible to become American citizens.

However, this alternative DREAM Act would significantly tighten up some of the other aspects of the Democratic DREAM Act, such as criminal records. We want young men and women who respect the law to be able to qualify as candidates for this bill. It would also lower the age to qualify for this bill from the current 35 years old, thus dramatically reducing the potential pool of candidates.

This conservative alternative DREAM Act would serve our country well. It would solve two very pressing issues: what we should do with the high-achieving, undocumented children in this country, and what we should do about border security.

Finally, to those on the left that would argue that anything less than citizenship is a non-starter, I say that is simply not true. In fact, just a few months ago, I spoke in Tucson, Arizona to a large audience of primarily Hispanic Evangelicals at the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference’s Immigration Summit. At that event, I suggested the plan as described above. During the Q&A session at the end of the program, we took a vote, and only 10 out of approximately 900 attendees had a problem with this “non-citizenship” plan.


Romney Says He Favors 'Self-Deportation'

Mitt Romney said in that he favors what he calls "self-deportation" over policies that require the federal government to round up illegal immigrants and return them to their home countries.

"The answer is self-deportation, which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can't find work here because they don't have legal documentation to allow them to work here," Romney said.

Romney's answer came after he was pressed on how he could be in favor of illegal immigrants returning to their home countries and applying for citizenship while also saying that he does not want the federal government to round people up and deport them.

Romney said that if employers enforce high standards for legal documentation of their employees, potential illegal immigrants will not be able to find work. He says this will allow the federal government to avoid having to round up people because they will leave on their own.


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