Phantom Conservative DREAM Act a Diversion
Stanley Renshon of the Center for Immigration Studies, an anti-immigrant think tank, wrote last week about the DREAM Act:
Anyone with a heart as well as brain recognizes that children brought here by their parents illegally at a very young age are different in many ways from those old enough to know better but who choose to break our immigration laws almost wholly to satisfy their own self-interest.
The question is: what to do about this difficult set of circumstances?
The answer is simple: Pass the DREAM Act.
But Renshon and the two other "compassionate" conservatives he cites in his blog post--Mark Krikorian and Debra Saunders--don't support the DREAM Act in its most recent form. Instead, they discuss some future DREAM Act to be written by conservative lawmakers which would "not include egregious loopholes."
I am skeptical for a few reasons.
First, I'll believe it when I see it. This mythical conservative DREAM Act has zero chance of being introduced in a conservative caucus dominated by hardcore nativist politicians like Senators Grassley and Sessions and Representatives Steve King and Lamar Smith. They've built their political success in large part on stoking the fires of anti-Latino and anti-Muslim resentment. They have little to gain from softening their rhetoric on immigration.
Second, Renshon isn't done with his analysis of what a CIS-approved DREAM Act would look like, but from what he's written so far, it looks like he intends to throw up barriers sufficient to limit application of the Act as much as possible and to ensure that even successful applicants would be stuck in a permanent legal half-status short of equal citizenship. I'll wait until he fills in the details of his proposal, but if he intends to place limitations on the ability of naturalized citizens by way of the DREAM Act to petition for relatives, such a law might not pass constitutional muster. More likely is a plan to maintain a permanent sub-class of immigrants who can never reach citizenship--also constitutionally dubious.
What these supposed supporters fail to mention is that the DREAM Act is already a compromise bill. The existing bill and earlier versions of it were written with GOP input and GOP support. The provision by which applicants could qualify for the DREAM Act by serving at least two years in the military was included in the bill to obtain bipartisan buy-in. The military provision has caused a lot of tension and soul-searching on the left, but still most on the left supported the bill with the understanding that compromise is a necessary element of politics. Before nativism became a conservative article of faith, the compromise bill garnered the support of Senators John McCain, Orrin Hatch, and Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Then in a final effort to get votes for the bill at the end of 2010 in an increasingly hostile environment, the DREAM Act was negotiated further to the right, lowering the age cap by five years and increasing the period of conditional status by four years. It still wasn't enough to mollify the nativists in both parties.
But to Renshon, it's as if none of these compromises ever happened. I fear his and Saunders' contributions are not good-faith efforts to reach a bipartisan solution, but rather an elaborate effort to justify an unjustifiable position. Opposing the DREAM Act cannot be morally justified. Renshon knows this, so he dances around to confuse the issues.
CIS and other anti-immigrant organizations now play a role similar to the White Citizens' Councils of the Jim Crow south. The Councils didn't openly advocate violence against blacks, instead working behind the scenes to maintain unjust power structures to keep the targeted population in a position of economic and cultural subjugation. A successor organization still exists today, but diminished and reviled. CIS is on a similar trajectory. Despite the best efforts of their opponents, DREAMers will succeed and write the future, while CIS and its supporters cling bitterly to the past.