The “dreamer” debate is raging as the nation contemplates what to do with the 800,000 young people who came to America illegally as children alone or with parents or relatives.
Of course, this debate was foreseen. The Obama administration broke the immigration rules with its Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, in which young people who arrived in America illegally with their parents might apply to stay in America upon reaching age 15 for two-year renewable periods.
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The program does not offer any legal status or path to citizenship. It merely allows young people to live in America without actually being Americans.
This legal limbo logically led to the present scenario. There are now hundreds of thousands of young adults living for years as Americans clamoring for amnesty so that they might be transformed from de facto residents into future citizens.
Falsely framing the debate as one over the welfare of the children, liberals have turned these adolescents and young adults into pawns in a political game. The issue is now dividing the nation into those who want to offer the DACA recipients Christian compassion and those who insist upon the rule of law.
What needs to be done now and in the future is to take away all the conditions that led to the DACA debacle. The causes of the dreamer nightmare must be addressed and kept from ever happening again.
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Empty the Debate of Sentimental Content
There are three ways to curtail the DACA nightmare.
First, as in all legal matters, minors must be represented by their lawful parents or legal guardians, not put on a separate path. DACA encourages the separation of the teenager from their illegal parents. It necessarily breaks up families, by giving a deferment to one but not the other. The real face of DACA is that it works against children, not for them. It provides legal security to neither parent nor child.
By following an immigration policy that keeps minors as they should be, under a guardian, the debate will be emptied of the fuzzy sentimental content of false compassion for “children” that makes rational debate possible.
Remove the Umbrella of Time
The second thing to be addressed is the umbrella of time. Part of the problem with the DACA nightmare is that it shelters the “dreamers” with two-year renewable deferments that keeps them out of the reach of the law. This legal limbo provides a shield for them to establish deep roots in a society of which they are not legally a part. They accustom themselves to American culture, schools and language under the DACA umbrella going through the cruel illusion they are becoming Americans without actually doing so.
This umbrella must be withdrawn to take away the element of time that tends to normalize irregular situations and create illusions. Immigration policy toward minors or young adults should be clear, quick, and unambiguous to allow them to plan their future. It cannot cruelly linger on and on like the DACA executive order that forces minors to live without definition under a Damocles’ sword.
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Never Reward the Breaking of the Law
Finally, the third thing that must be done to end the Dreamer nightmare is never to reward those who break the law either directly or indirectly. Respect for the law is one of the foundations of a civilized political order. When the rule of law is disregarded, as in the case of parents who enter illegally with their children, it is a matter that affects the common good. Children are taught no good lessons when they see the illegal acts of their parents rewarded with benefits.
Thus, any measure taken by Congress needs to consider that breaking the law cannot be rewarded. The government cannot treat those children illegally brought into the country in the same manner as those who came in legally. Any alternatives offered to those under DACA should not allow them to cut in front of the line of those minors and young adults who have followed all the proper procedures legally seeking residence and citizenship.
It is also proper regarding law to penalize those who break it. New legislation might consider opening residency avenues while significantly delaying possible citizenship opportunities to qualified DACA recipients (who were never promised citizenship) or require special vetting to ensure fairness in dealing with all immigrants.
Providing Better Alternatives
By depriving future immigration legislation of its emotional content, rational debate can proceed unimpeded. Likewise, clear and timely treatment of immigrants is essential to guarantee fairness and planning for the future. Above all, the respect for the law must be maintained. It is this very respect that attracts so many immigrants to America. It would be a great injustice to use the very immigration system itself to undermine that rule of law under which so many long to live.
The DACA debate bitterly divides the nation because it presents false options. The DACA nightmare can be avoided by rejecting its false premises. Americans must dream of better alternatives outside the DACA box and under the rule of law.
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