Ever since the November 6 election, we’ve heard a chorus of Republicans insisting that Romney’s loss was due to his “tough immigration stance,” which supposedly hurt him among Hispanics. The same chorus insists that the GOP should address this problem by embracing amnesty.
Establishment Republican after establishment Republican has repeated this mantra, and now we have the first piece of post-election Republican legislation: the ACHIEVE Act — a GOP version of the DREAM Act. The ACHIEVE Act was introduced by Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Kyl, both of whom are about to retire and therefore can’t be primaried.
Like the DREAM Act, the ACHIEVE Act would give legal status to the most sympathetic illegal immigrants: those whose parents brought them here as children. While I don’t blame these so-called “DREAMers” for their predicament, I have always said that the fault is with their parents for breaking our laws, not America for having laws. I oppose the DREAM Act because it rewards the parents by making them harder to deport and giving them an eventual path to citizenship (through their children). Moreover, the DREAM Act punishes young Americans, who are already struggling to cope with high unemployment and rising tuition costs. The DREAM Act will make things even worse for them by forcing them to compete with millions of more people their age, many of whom will benefit from in-state tuition and affirmative action.
Is there anything in the ACHIEVE Act to assuage these concerns? No. Like the DREAM Act, the ACHIEVE Act does nothing to prevent future illegal immigration. It does not bar illegal immigrants from in-state tuition or affirmative action. It does not prohibit them from eventually sponsoring their parents.
There are a number of cosmetic differences between the two bills. Unlike the DREAM Act, the ACHIEVE Act does not allow illegal immigrants to access federal student loan programs, and it requires them to have some basic knowledge of U.S. civics. Preventing illegal immigrants from accessing federal student loan programs is a good idea, but it’s still insignificant considering the overall cost of illegal immigration. And given how much of a joke the civics exams we require of legal immigrants are, I’m positive that the civics tests we give to illegal immigrants will just be bureaucratic formalities.
There is, however, one major difference between the DREAM Act and the ACHIEVE Act. The DREAM Act puts illegal immigrants on an immediate path to citizenship, while the ACHIEVE Act grants the illegals a “permanent non-immigrant” status. The phrase “permanent non-immigrant” is an oxymoron. A “non-immigrant” is an alien who is not going to stay here permanently, like temporary workers and tourists. A “permanent non-immigrant” is apparently an illegal immigrant who will be able to live and work in this country indefinitely but will not be able to apply for citizenship except through already existing channels. This means they can eventually get citizenship, but it could take a long time, as the wait lists for green cards from Mexico, where the majority of illegal immigrants come from, can be over a decade, and that assumes they have someone to sponsor them.