Home > David Frum, Democracy in America, Immigration > DREAM or Nightmare

DREAM or Nightmare

I’ve collected a decent back-and-forth between two respectable thinkers offering divergent views on the DREAM Act. I’ll post some excerpts but read the whole posts, none is very long.

Back on November 21st Will Wilkinson wrote a thoughtful piece on The Economist’s DiA blog about the decency of the DREAM Act.

The DREAM Act sends the message that although American immigration law in effect tries to make water run uphill, we are not monsters. It says that we will not hobble the prospects of young people raised and schooled in America just because we were so perverse to demand that their parents wait in a line before a door that never opens. It signals that we were once a nation of immigrants, and even if we have become too fearful and small to properly honour that noble legacy, America in some small way remains a land of opportunity.

David Frum at The Week challenges Wilkinson and explains why he thinks the DREAM Act will be a “nightmare.”

DREAM stands as an ongoing invitation, forever and ever. DREAM’s benefits extend not only to people who happen NOW to be illegally present inside the United States. DREAM’s benefits will be extended to all those who may enter illegally in future. DREAM’s message goes forth to Indonesia, to Egypt, to India, to China, to anywhere where teenagers find $7 an hour more attractive than $7 a day: come now and come early. Don’t waste your time acquiring an education before you arrive. We’ll subsidize your education right here in America.

Wilkinson responds and asks Frum for a correction.

Suppose DREAM becomes law in 2011. Your kid applies right away and earns status as a “conditional legal resident” (or “CLR”). Now, can you your kid sponsor you for legal permanent residency? No, she cannot. Only citizens can sponsor their parents. Suppose your kid goes to college and stays out of trouble. The earliest she can apply to become an “LPR” or “legal permanent resident” (ie, get a green card) is 5 1/2 years after approval for conditional permament residency. That’s some time in 2016 at the earliest. Now, a green card-holder can apply for citizenship after five years. Under DREAM, as I understand it, once a CLR is approved for a green card, the time spent as a CLR counts toward citizenship. So someone approved for a green card under the auspices of DREAM ought to be able to apply for citizenship right away. Let’s assume miracles from the bureaucracy and say all these applications are processed and approved at the speed of light. So, thanks to DREAM, your daughter will be a citizen no sooner than 2016, at which point she can finally sponsor you (as long as she’s over the age of 21). But don’t get excited yet! You entered the country illegally, and were working illegally before applying for a green card, and that means you aren’t eligible for a green card. ( See question 10 here.) So, sorry, DREAM can’t help you.

I often enjoy Frum, but I think Wilkinson holds the correct position on this. Make up your own mind. I’ll update if David responds. Until then, please read this perspective from a undocumented Harvard student that would be affected by the DREAM Act.

It is November and I have already lost the ability to think in the future tense, as if my heart had anesthetized my mind in preparation for the possible disappointments of the next several months. I sleep without setting any alarm clocks. I speak faster in hopes that I might get more English words in. I kiss slower to feel more, here, longer. I’m at a road that bifurcates into continents and I am terrified because I know I might once again have to live with a decision that is not mine to make. It would hurt to be forced to leave, but it hurts to stay the way I’m staying now. I belong to this place but I also want it to belong to me.

I’m always surprised and saddened when people are so eager to throw out immigrants like this talented young woman.

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