Over the weekend, the Senate refused to pass the DREAM Act, which would have put no more than a million young illegal immigrants — potential model citizens — on the path to legal status. As I wrote recently:
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has called the bill a “reckless proposal for mass amnesty.” It is nothing of the sort. It’s a narrowly tailored measure that would apply only to people under the age of 30, who came to the U.S. before they were 16, and who’ve lived here at least five years. The vast majority of them were brought to this country by their parents when they were too young to know anything about immigration laws.
The legislation requires them to complete two years of college or military service and to abide by other laws to be eligible for a ten-year conditional residency. Because of its requirements, immigration experts think that about 800,000 illegal immigrants would ultimately be eligible.
After ten years, DREAM Act beneficiaries could apply for permanent residency. After five years of permanent residency, they could apply for citizenship.
That series of steps — at least fifteen years before citizenship, according to DREAM Act provisions — gives the lie to the claim that beneficiaries could become immediate sponsors to their undocumented family members. They couldn’t. Besides, any family member who came here illegally has to go back to his country for ten years. That’s 15 years before an undocumented mother or father has a prayer at U.S. citizenship.
Previously, Republicans such as Orrin Hatch and John McCain were sponsors of the DREAM Act. But, deferring to their nativist constituencies, they walked away from it.
So, here’s the question: What’s the GOP plan for the 11 million or so illegal immigrants already here? Do they plan to round them all up and deport them? If so, at what cost — financially and spiritually? If we were to attempt such at thing, it would cost hundreds of billions. Are we prepared to pay that? Are we prepared to witness armed federal agents breaking down doors to drag children out of their homes?
GOP officials continue to insist that the US must “secure its border” before they will consider any sort of immigration reform. Here’s another question: What’s the definition of “secure border”? President Obama has presided over a record number of deportations, far more than were carried out under President Bush.
He has also Increased border patrol agents. According to PolitiFact,
The 2011 proposed budget, for example, includes $94 million to expand the number of Customs and Border Patrol officers — putting the country on target to reach Bush’s goal of 20,000 officers. Between 2007 and 2011, the Border Patrol budget increased from $2.3 billion to $3.6 billion. The budget for inspections at ports of entry increased from $1.8 billion in 2007 to $2.9 billion in 2011. In addition, Obama’s proposed 2011 budget calls for $1.6 billion for customs enforcement programs to identify and remove illegal aliens who commit crimes; and $137 million to expand immigration-related verification programs.
If that’s not good enough, Republicans need to let the country know, specifically, what they plan to do about illegal immigration.