Republicans Contemplating Scaled-Down DREAM Act—But Why?

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Nov. 16 2012 8:28 AM

Republicans Contemplating Scaled-Down DREAM Act—But Why?

Matt Lewis at the Daily Caller reports on a draft version of something its proponents are calling the ACHIEVE Act, a bill designed to broadly speaking do the same thing as the DREAM Act but be less generous. The bill would allow ACHIEVE-eligible undocumented people to get a W-1 visa to attend college or serve in the military, with some possibility of citizenship following after application for a new visa after that.

Elise Foley breaks down some of the differences:

The bill being floated would apply to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before the age of 14 as long as they are under the age of 28, if they have no college degree. If they are college-educated, the age limit is 32, according to the Daily Caller. The Dream Act, by contrast, would allow immigrants to apply so long as they came before the age of 16 and are currently under the age of 30.

Both plans require an immigrant to show good moral character, maintain a felony-free criminal record, and live in the U.S. for five consecutive years before the bill's enactment -- assuring foreign nationals will not enter the country now simply to apply.

It's a bit difficult to understand the logic of this legislation as anything other than arbitrary salami-slicing. If you oppose the policy objectives of the DREAM Act, there's nothing about ACHIEVE's slightly stingier mentality that really addresses those concerns. And if you support the policy objectives of the DREAM Act, then this kind of mini-DREAM is just worse. There's obviously some political strategizing happening here, but I can't quite parse how it works.

The bottom line in either case is that we're talking about people who've grown up in the United States, have graduated from high school, and are either prepared to obtain higher education or to serve in the American military. In a sensible world we would recognize that one of America's great strengths as a society is precisely that lots of people like that want to live and work in the United States and pay taxes and become citizens.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.