The DREAM Act failed the lame duck Congress but it will be back. For those who were not paying attention, the DREAM Act is being pitched as a way for the children of illegal aliens to become citizens by getting a college degree or joining the military. It is described as an act of fairness for children who were brought here without their consent by their parents. Some descriptions of this group make it seem as though they are the smartest kids in America.
Ok, that's the spin. What is really going on?
Foremost, this is an act of pandering by Democrats to the Hispanic voters. The hope is that they will be able to capture the Hispanic vote the same way they did the black vote, eventually leading to a permanent Democratic majority. Citizenship is a serious matter and should not be used in cynical vote mongering.
Not surprisingly, the DREAM Act is not exactly what it is being presented as. (note - I'm working from the summary in Wikipedia and a separate site here.) The act would grant permanent residency and a path to citizenship to people who meet some basic requirements - either serving two years in the military or completing two years of college.
Before I go any further, I would like to clarify that I think that allowing illegal immigrants to earn citizenship through military service is a great idea. As long as their English is good enough for them to communicate effectively they should be allowed into the military. I would, however, prefer a 3-4 year hitch since training in the modern army takes so much time. A two-year hitch does not give enough time for proper training and deployment.
My main complaints are with the college part of the act. Most of the PR talks about minors gaining citizenship but the act would cover anyone between 12 and 35 (Wikipedia says 30). The act gives them six years to complete two years of college so the upper limit would apply to people aged 42. If the act is supposed to help minors then limit to minors with a cut-off of either 18 or 21 for enrollment. Age 21 is consistent with the provision that people applying have to have entered before the age of 16 and have resided here five years (16 + 5 = 21).
Allowing six years to complete two years of college is also too generous. I'd like to see them complete a four-year degree in that time. Someone who takes six years to finish two years of college is not serious about getting a degree. Remember, the education requirement is an alternative to military service and this is being billed as a way of retaining the best and brightest of the illegals. Anything less is nothing but a back door amnesty (what a surprise!).
Something else that I don't like about this act is the financing. Applicants under the DREAM Act cannot qualify for Pell Grants but can get federally-funded student loans. The act would also allow states to grant subsidized resident rates for state schools instead of the higher out-of-state rates.
If it is toughened up the DREAM Act might be useful but the most recent version was more of an effort to pander for votes than a real proposal to provide an educated American workforce.