op-ed

The Immigration Question No One Asks: How Did “DREAMers” Get Here?

Last week, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) took eight hours of the House’s time to tell her colleagues and the world the personal stories of people, who, from the amount of attention they are receiving, would seem to hold the fate of our republic in their hands: the so-called “DREAMers,” who came to this country illegally as minors. An estimated 3.4 million of them are here (say it with me), “through no fault of their own.”

For the most part, that is a true statement. But it begs the obvious question; Well, then whose fault is it that they are here illegally? No one ever asks this question because to do so would require accountability on somebody’s part other than the American public’s. In the absence of identifying the people who are responsible for 3.4 million people being in a state of legal limbo we can all act as though they arrived here in much the same way that Dorothy and Toto showed up in Oz.

As the Senate sets aside all other business over the next week or two to address the all-consuming issue of what to do about millions of people who are here illegally “through no fault of their own,” we are likely to hear many more personal stories. Pelosi’s Senate counterpart, Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), will undoubtedly consume significant floor time and space relating personal stories while displaying his prodigious photo collection of DREAMers on the Senate floor.

What will likely never be uttered on the floor of the Senate over the coming week or two, by members of either party, are some important truths:

  • The people at the center of this debate are here through the direct fault of their parents who understood that in breaking the law they were putting their children in this situation. It wasn’t bad karma that put them here illegally; it was their parents.
  • The DREAMers are not being “punished for the sins of their parents.” The absence of a benefit or a reward for the illegal acts of their parents is not the same thing as a punishment.
  • The people who should be at the center of the debate are not the people who broke our immigration laws, or their children. Rather, the American people, whom the laws were supposed to protect, should be the focal point of any rational immigration debate.

These matters won’t be discussed on the floor of the Senate because to do so would require accountability, and who wants that? It is much easier to pretend that the situation we’re dealing with was an act of God and make the best of it.

The sad truth is that children often suffer for illegal or irresponsible acts of their parents, even if these acts are well-intentioned. Jeb Bush was not wrong when he said people bringing their kids to the United States is “an act of love.” So is a parent not paying their property taxes so that they can provide for the needs of their children. But, when county officials show up to evict the tax evading parents, nobody suggests that the kids get to remain in the home because they didn’t make the decision not to pay the taxes, or because it is “the only home they’ve ever known.” And certainly nobody argues that the parents should be allowed to remain in the home with their innocent kids because doing otherwise would be breaking up families.

With the apparent lone exception of illegal immigration, we hold those who break our laws to be responsible for how the consequences of those actions affect their children. To do otherwise just invites more people to break laws that are meant to protect the public – whether it is ensuring that people pay their taxes or obey our immigration laws.

The fate of those who were brought to the United States illegally as children is not an illegitimate issue. But before we get there, there has to be accountability on the part of the people who created the mess. We need something of an immigration truth and reconciliation commission.

Here is the truth: The people who broke our laws are responsible for putting their kids in limbo.

Congress has consistently ignored the interests of the American people and allowed mass illegal immigration to persist while refusing to implement rational immigration policies.

The business lobby has used its power to block any effective screening of illegal workers.

Local politicians advertise that immigration lawbreakers will be rewarded and shielded.

Those are the reasons for the problem Congress is trying to address.

Only after all of these truths are acknowledged, and changes are put in place, can there be some sort of reconciliation for those who are here “through no fault of their own.”

Ira Mehlman is the media director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.