There’s no such thing as a Republican DREAM Act

Tom Tancredo Former Congressman
Font Size:

Senator Marco Rubio is planning to introduce a Republican version of the DREAM Act, a bill that grants legal status to young illegal immigrants. While the DREAM Act has received some support from RINOs like Lindsey Graham and Richard Lugar in the past, Republicans have largely opposed it. When the lame-duck Democrats tried to pass it in December 2010, only three Republican senators and eight Republican representatives went along.

Sen. Rubio opposes the old DREAM Act, but he claims that he will craft his bill to address Republican concerns with that piece of legislation. Based on his initial statements, though, it looks like he has not yet dealt with the original DREAM Act’s basic problems.

Sen. Rubio rightly notes some of the major issues with the old DREAM Act. He told National Review, “The problem is that all of the existing policy proposals that are out there like the DREAM Act create amnesty. They create incentives for illegal immigration, chain migration and all sorts of problems.”

His point about the incentives the old DREAM Act would have created for chain migration is important. No one blames the illegal immigrants who were brought here as children for their situations. However, the blame belongs on their parents for breaking the law, not on America for being a nation of laws. Under the previous DREAM Act legislation, the illegal immigrants who got amnesty could then sponsor their parents as legal immigrants.

Sen. Rubio suggested that this problem could be solved by creating “a visa process that legalizes [the family members of DREAM Act recipients] and wouldn’t prohibit them in the future from accessing the citizenship process, but wouldn’t give them a pathway to it specially carved out,” though he noted he was open to other suggestions.

But this would not solve any of the problems with the old DREAM Act that Sen. Rubio raised. Regardless of whether the family members of DREAM Act recipients get immediate citizenship or are offered special visas, they will still be able to work and be educated in the United States while millions of people wait in line to come here legally. This is amnesty, plain and simple. Furthermore, this proposal, like the old DREAM Act, would create incentives for illegal immigration, because most illegal immigrants come here for jobs and/or government benefits, not for citizenship.

Nor would this proposal entirely solve the chain migration problem. Sen. Rubio hasn’t said so explicitly, but presumably his plan would prevent illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children from sponsoring their family members until they got citizenship. However, in order for these young illegal immigrants to be eligible for the DREAM Act, their families would have to have been breaking our immigration laws for years. Making DREAM Act recipients wait a few extra years before they can sponsor their family members will not solve the chain migration problem unless we also crack down on illegal immigration.

If Rubio really wants to solve the chain migration problem, he should introduce a Senate version of Rep. Phil Gingrey’s (R-GA) Nuclear Family Priority Act, which would end chain migration altogether.

Sen. Rubio has yet to address some other major problems with past DREAM Acts. Approximately 85% of illegal immigrants are black or Hispanic, and if they were given amnesty, they would be eligible for affirmative action. Additionally, they would be eligible for in-state tuition at public colleges. Currently, virtually all schools in the country grant affirmative action and in-state tuition to non-citizen residents. Even if the new DREAM Act recipients were not given a direct path to citizenship, they would still be eligible for these benefits.

Sen. Rubio has expressed dismay that many people have criticized his DREAM Act before he has even released all the details. This is a fair concern. While I am very skeptical that he will be able to remove the loopholes that plagued past DREAM Acts for the reasons outlined above, perhaps he will manage to come up with some creative solutions that I have not considered.

However, even if he removes these loopholes, I will still oppose his version of the DREAM Act and any other. The unemployment rate among Americans aged 18-24 is at 16.3%, the highest since the Labor Department began recording employment statistics in 1948. The DREAM Act would make it harder for young, unemployed Americans to find work.

I truly sympathize with the illegal immigrants who were brought here by their parents, but we cannot reward them at the expense of American citizens.

Tom Tancredo represented Colorado’s 6th Congressional District from 1999 until 2009. While in Congress, he chaired the bipartisan, 100-plus-member Immigration Reform Caucus. He currently serves as chairman of Team America PAC and The Rocky Mountain Foundation.