Guy W. Farmer: Immigration policy and the ‘Dreamers’
February 10, 2018
The federal government shut down for six hours between Thursday night and Friday morning, but hardly anyone noticed. Congress finally put an end to a week-long political comic opera by approving a two-year spendthrift budget bill early Friday morning and it was business as usual in Our Nation's Capital as Democrats and Republicans blamed each other for the meaningless shutdown.
The compromise — a new word in Washington — budget doesn't provide billions of dollars for President Trump's "big, beautiful" border wall, nor does it legalize more than a million "Dreamers" — young people who were brought here as children by their illegal parents — despite an impassioned eight-hour speech by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a liberal San Francisco Democrat who put the interests of illegal immigrants ahead of adequate funding for America's armed forces.
After President Trump delivered his State of the Union address late last month, congressional Democrats and Republicans were at each others' throats over "comprehensive immigration reform." The dispute revolved around two major issues: (1) the Dreamers and (2) border security, including the president's 2,000-mile-long wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Under the brokered budget deal, Congress will begin debating immigration reform Monday morning.
President Trump offered to give 1.8 million Dreamers a 12-year path to American citizenship if congressional Democrats agree to strengthen border security by appropriating billions of dollars for his border wall, cutting back on "chain" (extended family) migration and ending the controversial Visa Lottery Program. Personally, I think that's a fair, if imperfect, deal for both sides because negotiations are all about getting most of what you seek without giving up too much in return.
Democrats want to legalize the Dreamers and register them to vote, while Republicans seek real, visible border security. That seems to be a reasonable trade-off although many conservatives object to amnesty for the Dreamers. So do I but if the president is to realize his dream of a humongous border wall, he'll have to deal with the Dreamers, who have portrayed themselves as near-perfect human beings victimized by cruel and unfair immigration laws.
Before we accept their saintly image of themselves, however, we should note Dreamers aren't a monolithic group of young people. Like the rest of us, some Dreamers are more law-abiding and responsible than others. Therefore, I believe any Dreamer amnesty program should specifically require deportation of those who have been convicted of serious crimes (i.e. felonies), nor should amnesty apply to their illegal parents, who broke our immigration laws by sneaking into the U.S.
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As for chain migration, where legal immigrants are allowed to bring aunts, uncles and cousins to the U.S., it's time to end that dangerous policy along with the equally dangerous Visa Lottery Program, where unskilled, undereducated, people from impoverished Third World countries are given U.S. visas regardless of their qualifications, or lack of same. Let's remember two recent New York City terrorist attacks were perpetrated by legal immigrants who came here under the Visa Lottery Program.
With apologies to Emma Lazarus and the Statue of Liberty, we no longer need or want to import the Third World's "wretched refuse" or "teeming masses." Legal immigration should be merit-based. Period. We should also end the "anchor baby" racket.
President Trump terminated ex-President Obama's possibly unconstitutional Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program last September and gave Congress until March 5 to resolve the issue. Obama spared some 800,000 Dreamers from possible deportation but Trump upped the ante by including nearly two million of them in his controversial amnesty proposal in exchange for his wall and enhanced border security measures. Let the debate begin.
Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal's senior political columnist.