The DREAM Act

Lynne Hybels doesn’t post on her blog that often, but the failure of the DREAM Act brought out this post, and I clip the first two paragraphs.

What do you think of the DREAM Act?

Like many of my friends, I am profoundly disappointed by Saturday’s defeat of the DREAM Act by just a few votes in the Senate. I have to confess this is the first time I have actually called the offices of politicians to ask for their vote on a particular piece of legislation. I had really hoped that Senator Kirk would change his mind and vote Yes. I’m grateful to Senator Dick Durbin for sponsoring and championing this bill, and to Representative Melissa Bean for voting Yes and helping to pass the bill in the House of Representatives last week.

I want to say to the many God-loving, hard-working young people—some in my church—whose hopes were dashed by the failure of the DREAM Act that you will not be forgotten. Your dreams will not be ignored. Your value and dignity depend not on the affirmation of any government, but on the affirmation of the God who created and loves you. Your friends will continue to work on your behalf.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Robin

    As a Christian I am getting more and more convinced that a world without borders or national distinctions is kind of what Jesus has in mind. By that I mean that a truly Christian president would be as committed to feeding the poor in Ethiopia as he was in protecting jobs in the U.S…10% global unemployment (U.S. included) would be preferable to such a President than a situation in which the U.S. had a booming economy and 0% unemployment while the 3rd world struggled with 20% unemployment. In that scenario, the failure of the DREAM Act is a tragedy.

    As an American, I think this is what happens when you fill otherwise good legislation with enough loopholes to make the sticks in the legislation unenforceable.

    Briefly, the DREAM ACT is advertised to require that undocumented immigrants be attending college or enlisted in the military to apply and be placed on the 6 year amnesty track. Furthermore, it isn’t supposed to be open to criminals.

    The bill that just failed had the following loopholes:

    (1) Applicants could commit 2 of the following crimes and still be eligibile: endangering the welfare of a child; public lewdness; stalking; domestic violence; assault or battery; unlawful carrying of weapons; forcible touching; sexual abuse in the second degree; soliciting membership in a criminal street gang; engaging in organized criminal activity.

    (2) Applicants didn’t really have to be enrolled in college, or even pass highschool, they just had to have a GED and claim that they intended, some day in the future, to go to college.

    (3) The secretary of homeland security (presently Napolitano) was given unlimited discretionary authority to grant waivers for applicants that failed to comply with the application requirements.

    So, if you had a GED and applied for amnesty under the DREAM Act you are supposed to be given 6 years to get a degree or enlist then you get citizenship; however, the SHS is given an unlimited number of waivers to grant unconditional citizenship to lapsed applicants and congress, nor any other body, was given authority to deny those citizenship decisions.

    Here is a worst case scenario. A male immigrant could literally have a GED, apply for the program, spend the next 6 years working for minimum wage and impregnating various women and having multiple children out of wedlock, and at the end of 6 years file a hardship claim with the SHS on the grounds that providing for his multiple children has prevented him from attending college and be granted citizenship.

    Here is another worst case scenario…and this is the one that particularly bothers some people. We have begun, reluctantly, to deport criminals. If the DREAM Act passed, a young person with a GED could have been picked up on their 2nd offense of domestic violence, assault and battery, or engaging in organized criminal activity, and whereas prior to the DREAM ACT we would have begun the deportation process, now we could start that process, but if they then decided to apply for citizenship under the DREAM ACT the deportation process is immediately stopped and they’ve got 6 years to get something done (and then they can still apply for a hardship waiver even if they don’t) and while you can’t apply for the DREAM Act if you have more than 2 misdemeandors or Federal felonies, I don’t think committing those additional crimes once you’ve applied cancels your conditional status. It thus becomes a means for criminals to remain in this country and potentially to continue to commit more crimes.

    The loopholes in this bill have the potential to make it very bad for America, but even with that I don’t know if Jesus would care. Jesus would probably still prefer legislation that was bad for America but good for immigrants.

  • Robin

    Ways to fix the bill.

    If you did all, or most, of the following you would take away the ammo of most critics:

    (1) Take away the GED/HS Diploma loophole and make college application/enrollment a true prerequisite.

    (2) Make it unavailable to people with any criminal background, or at least any crimes committed between DREAM ACT passage/18th Birthday and application. This would prevent person with ongoing criminal activity from using it as a get out of deportation card.

    (3) Revoke conditional status for persons committing crimes after application and begin deportation process required for all other criminal immigrants.

    (4) Either (a) remove SHS ability to grant harship waivers (b) limit the number of waivers that can be granted or (c) provide congressional oversight of waiver process and give them the ability to limit/revoke waivers.

    If some of these had been included in the original legislation it would have passed. Now that the House is going to be Republican and Dems lost their power even in the Senate, I doubt even including these safeguards would matter.

  • http://www.justhangingontograce.blogspot.com Kellye Fabian

    Two thoughts.

    1) The fallout of our current system is no longer bearable. http://bit.ly/e2RSLs
    2) Unlike Christ, we withhold love. http://bit.ly/dX408X

  • Jason Lee

    I don’t think the crime history thing should be a prerequisite. One of the best ways to move people away from repeated criminal offending is to get them attached to conventional institutions such as the educational system (and marriage, which in America is often depended on getting a good job, which is now often dependent on college). Cutting kids off from college pushes them toward crime. It’s likely that the failure to pass the dream act may have just pushed a lot of kids into an underworld economy and will increase crime for the country.

    Criminologists call the protective effects of attachment to conventional institutions “social bonding” and its often seen as much more effective than formal processing and punishment by the criminal justice system (that’s not to say that formal sanctions are never appropriate).

  • http://www.anotherthink.com Charlie

    As Robin correctly points out, there is a great gap between the DREAM Act hype and the realities of the legislation. In principle, most people would favor a path to citizenship for young people who are here illegally through decisions made by their parents, if they have lived here with respect for the law and have demonstrated an intent to become good citizens. America can and should be generous to such people; this law is seriously flawed, however, and should be re-written.

  • EricW

    Some thoughts/guesses:

    I wonder if part of the problem is our proximity to Mexico? Immigrants from Europe, Asia, and Africa are thousands of miles away from their homes. While they can bring their customs with them, and live with fellow immigrants from their homeland, there is little chance that they’ll Europeanize or Asianize or Africanize American society in large measure, or blur the borders between the U.S. and their countries.

    I suspect that states like Texas (where I live) and California and Arizona and New Mexico are finding it harder to maintain or promote their United-States-ness in the face of increasing numbers of Mexican immigrants, and are seeing the Mexicanization of their cities, schools, businesses, etc., far beyond the ways that non-Mexican immigrants have affected these states.

    I think it’s Michael Savage who says that a country is defined by its language, its borders, and its culture. I suspect that one reason flawed bills like the so-called “DREAM” Act fail because citizens who live in states next to Mexico have seen the failure or refusal of the Government to enforce present immigration laws (including reacting hostilely against states that try to enforce them) with the result that many areas are becoming (or seem to be becoming) increasingly un-United-States-ized. I wonder if it’s not so much the fear of the foreigner as it is the fear of the blurring of the line between the United States and Mexico, as I don’t think anyone here wants to become a Mexican state, or a primarily-Mexican-speaking state.

  • RobS

    Yes, it was a good idea and they should re-try things with some changes. Anytime a politically appointed person has discretion to just take things over, it’s a bit wearysome. We truly do not know the outcome of what the result will be. It may be hard for some to vote for things like that.

    Maybe freshen it up and see about addressing the border crossing abuses that seem to be presently occuring and package it all together. It would be interesting to see if that level of compromise would be reached on both sides of the isle.

    Finally I do wonder about those patiently waiting to enter the country legally and how justice is being served them if any activities of illegal immigration are delaying a rightful entry that might make their world better.

  • Jason Lee

    I sense the assumption in some of the comments so far that a kid breaking the law is always 100% their own fault. This assumption strikes me as inconsistent with the way people slip into having a criminal record. The fact that kids have had to grow up in disadvantaged neighborhoods, have had to watch family members work under the radar, and have grown up without much hope of college (i.e., conventional aspirations) are all external factors. Such external factors often set the stage for some kids to be in situations where breaking the law is more likely.

    Basically I see no reason to assume that kids have equal childhoods when it comes to external pressures to commit a crime.

  • Jason Lee

    EricW (6): It’s a popular misconception that today’s immigrants are losing their native languages (primarily Spanish) slower than previous immigrant communities (e.g., Italians). Researchers have dispelled this myth (see e.g., Hout and Fisher’s book “Century of Difference”). America is incredibly effective at stamping out any foreign language that enters its borders. Today’s immigrants (including from Mexico) are losing native languages just as quickly as european immigrants did generations ago.

    This illustrates one of the problems with using a radio entertainer like Mr. Savage as a source of information about social trends.

  • http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    From what I understand of it, as well as knowing of its support from Catholic bishops and the United Methodist Church, I support it. It seems quite fair, as well as compassionate. What is the alternative for those young people, and for that matter for this nation, even from some national self-interest? The Republicans are on the wrong side again (which in my mind is more often than not). Though I acknowledge that issues are complex, and there is never just two sides, though it always comes to that at vote time.

  • EricW

    @Jason Lee #9:

    I don’t listen to Michael Savage – I just remember this quote of his from hearing him off and on years ago. I have no idea what he says about immigration.

    I would like to believe you’re telling the truth about Mexicans losing their native language, but even in NORTH Texas there seem to be large numbers of young Mexicans who don’t seem to be learning English. Hopefully they and their kids will.

  • EricW

    Correction: Michael Savage’s statement about a country being defined by its language, borders and culture would be his statement about immigration. I think it’s correct, though; as one person has quipped, the history of the world is the history of tribes.

  • http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    …I should say in my opinion.

  • http://www.diversitychangeinhighered.wordpress.com Joel Perez

    Being a college administrator and one who has spoken extensively with high school and college students who are undocumented, the defeat of this bill was devastating not only for me but the students I work with. This has been shared before, but for some of the students that have a desire to pursue college degree do not discover their immigration status until they begin to apply for financial aid. I have had high school college counselors share with me their experiences in advising students who discover their status during the financial aid process. I would encourage all of you to watch “Papers.” This is a documentary about undocumented youth (www.papersthemovie.com). Is the DREAM Act perfect? No, but it is a start and there are several laws that have far worse loopholes than the ones listed above. I believe that this is a moral issue for us as believers. If a Republican congress wants to work on new legislation I encourage them to do so.

    In regards to immigrants being enculturated, Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform reports that within 10 years of arrival more than 75 percent of immigrants speak English well. Having parents myself who immigrated to this country from Mexico and watching them obtain US citizenship I would say if there was a path to legal residence, most immigrants would take it and be productive citizens of our country. I would also encourage all of you to get to know immigrants in your communities. You will be surprised by their resiliency and determination to succeed in spite of their circumstances. The Mennonite Central Committee which has put together excellent resources on immigration (http://us.mcc.org/programs/immigration).

  • http://azspot.net Naum

    Basically, Republicans to young kids brought here by their parents at a young age, grew up here: “Damn you all to hell”.

    Don’t understand the protest against it — most of the opposition appears to be either racist or extreme dislike of “the other” — on the local newspaper (AZcentral), the comments are all about how it’s just another “anchor baby” strategy for Mexicans to take over the U.S. by bringing in all their kin. When Republican lawmakers are queried about their opposition, they disingenuously deflect the question and speak about needing to “secure the border”. Sorry, that’s a copout.

  • David Himes

    It is interesting to note the number of people who are saying immigrants who came or were brought to the US, in violation of US laws, should not be told to obey US laws, as they now stand.

    My reading of the New Testament suggests I need to treat such people as Jesus would. And Jesus said, if a soldier compels you to go with him 1 mile, go with him 2 miles.

    That doesn’t sound like Jesus advocated ignoring the laws of the country.

    The immigrants who would have been effected by The Dream Act, already have a path to citizenship under current law … it’s just longer and less convenient than The Dream Act would have provided.

  • Jason Lee

    David Himes (16): Your comment is unconvincing. What you’re saying is essentially a nonsolution for these American-raised undocumented kids trying to get a college education. Many of these kids come from working class backgrounds and are not rich. Do you think its realistic(or wise) for them take on college debt at international student tuition rates (often triple tuition). It’s barely wise for people to take on college debt at the in-state rate.

    The Bible verse you cite doesn’t seems like a stretch.

  • David Himes

    Jason Lee (17). I’m not trying to convince anyone, I’m just observing what is factually correct. There is a path for these folks. I did not suggest it was cheaper or easier — in fact, just the opposite.

    But the case in favor of The Dream Act is equally unconvincing. There is no compelling reason to change the current law. There are just those who want to change and those who want to leave it as it is.

    Frankly, it’s a political matter, not a matter of faith.

  • Richard

    @ 18 David

    Regardless of which we way we fall on this issue, I disagree vehemently with the assertion that there is a separation between faith and political matters. Our faith needs to, and does regardless of our awareness, drive our political action or inaction.

    I hope the new congress continues to revamp our immigration policies, a task which is long overdue. We need to move past the extreme accusations and assumptions and start unpacking the reality of situations. No one wants to support freeloaders but how do we distinguish between freeloaders and those that are hardworking but here without documentation?

  • Ryan

    Wow for people who have so much venom for the so called religious right and pastors who speak out on gay marriage and abortion, you are quite passionate and confident in invoking religion and having pastors speak out politically on this issue…

  • SamB

    I prayed it would pass, and I am very disappointed it did not. I hope that those who said they couldn’t support it because of loopholes will work diligently to fix the bill and pass it. I will continue to pray. Kellye at #3, thanks for the links you provided.

  • http://bilingualbibleblog.blogspot.com Brian

    Eric (#6):

    Spanish was spoken in California, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona long before English was. Many of the Mexican-Americans in hose states can trace the Mexican part back to when those states were part of Mexico. And some of them maintained language and customs for generations alongside English and U.S. practices.

  • EricW

    Brian @22:

    I know Mexican was spoken in those territories before they became states. But they are now part of the United States of America, and American English is our lingua franca. I have no problem with bilingualism or trilingualism or whatever. What will hurt our states and our country is if large population groups choose to never make American English their primary language.

    IMHO and YMMV, of course.

  • Derek

    EricW, may I ask why you refer to ‘Mexican’ as a language? I notice you talk about American English so why not Mexican Spanish? After all ‘Mexican’ is not a language.

  • EricW

    OK, Brian – “Mexican” is my shorthand for “Mexican Spanish.” And here in Texas “Mexican” is indeed a language, or it sure seems to be. I’ve run into numerous Spanish speakers (including coworkers whose parents came from Mexico) who say they cannot understand a lot of the local Mexican population – day laborers, etc. So I assume they speak a dialect of Spanish that could probably or maybe even properly be called “Mexican.” Just like some people here speak Texan [English].

    Well, now I’m fixin’ to go to the store, so see y’all after a spell….

  • EricW

    Ooops – that last comment #25 should have been addressed to Derek. Sorry.

  • http://cboye.wordpress.com Colleen

    David, let me put this clearly:

    For people who don’t have citizen/permanent resident relatives and don’t have a job offer, There. Is. No. Path. To. Citizenship. It isn’t longer or less convenient. It’s nonexistent.

    Observe.


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