DACA and the Worry Over Rewarding Bad Behavior

It’s tempting to think the issue of DACA and what to do about DREAMers is so difficult because the immigration system is so complicated. And that’s part of it.

But it’s more likely that the concern over what to do about 800,000 people who were brought to this country before they could even consent to the move is hard because no one — not even the stodgiest border wall hawk — relishes the idea of sending people who’ve grown up steeped in the comforts of the West to situations that amount to 3rd world living conditions in many cases.

Well, maybe the absolute stodgiest are ok with it, but they tend to avoid the hard work of nuanced decision-making, preferring mostly to see things in absolutes (maybe that’s why so many legislators on the Hill who are allergic to hard work were elected; which of course paved the way for the executive-order-happy former administration who gave us the current problem of DACA).

In any case, the primary concern many conservatives seem to have with granting DREAMers a path to permanent residency (which then allows them to apply for citizenship) is that it may encourage more illegals to come here hoping to game the system. Then there’s the slap in the face to those who come here legally, get the green card, live and work for 5 years and then become naturalized citizens. Streiff wrote about it this morning, outlining Sen. Tom Cotton’s concerns that:

…codifying the DACA program will have two negative consequences: encouraging future illegal immigration with minors and allowing those 800,000 people to obtain legal status for their family members via chain migration, which rewards the very people who broke the law in the first place and further depresses working-class wages.

That’s certainly a rational assessment of the potential consequences, and it’s nice to have people thinking consequences at all (not a big priority with most legislators). But by way of offering 2 cents worth of off-the-cuff suggestions about it…

Why can’t the next iteration of the DREAM Act (because that’s what it would be and with apologies to Lindsey Graham who already has something in the works) be a program with a time-limit constraint that bypasses the “permanent residency” status for DREAMers and allows those eligible (good character, in school, brought as children, etc. etc.) to move right into the naturalization process? They’ve already lived here well longer than 5 years (the amount of time a green card holder must live and work in the US to apply for citizenship), so they’ve ostensibly met that requirement. And wouldn’t it be reasonable to allow only a finite number into this accelerated citizenship program with the understanding that the program itself has an end date? That might take care of concerns that others would illegally enter hoping for similar perks.

I’m not an expert on this issue  — I’m not even approaching expert status. But I was encouraged by White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders indicating a massive overhaul is on the way for the immigration system. Couple that with Trump’s buck pass to Congress this morning on Twitter and it looks like Congress, allergic to hard work or not, has a big project on their collective desk.

Let’s hope they handle it better than Repeal/Replace.