There’s room for compromise on the fate of “dreamers,” but the appropriate starting point is that they are not entitled to remain in the country.
From there, we should be choosy about the circumstances under which we will bend the rules.
Dreamers are people who were brought here illegally as children by their parents and have grown up in America for several years as undocumented immigrants. Many know little about their country of origin.
About 800,000 people, including more than 40,000 Illinoisans, were shielded from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program ordered by President Barack Obama. DACA was designed to protect dreamers, but it was an executive order rather than a law, and President Donald Trump ended the program in September.
Supporters of the dreamers say it would be cruel and unfair to deport them. It would be punishing them for their parents’ decisions, leaving them adrift in a foreign land where they have no connections.
We are tired of the insistence that people who violate immigration law must be accommodated. Illegal residents generally don’t want to return to their country of origin – if they did, we wouldn’t have to deport them.
Dreamers’ immigration status may be a result of their parents’ decisions, but parents make choices that affect their children all the time. It’s why being a parent is such a big responsibility.
An unspoken sentiment behind the argument for dreamers to remain is that their countries of origin are, if not the vulgar term recently used by Trump, at least inferior to the U.S. – so it would be a hardship for anyone to have to live there.
But dreamers are not asylum-seekers. After several years of attending school in the U.S. and presumably developing fluency in English, the average dreamer almost certainly would have a shot at a better life in their home country than what their parents had.
If we disregard entitlement, we should not disregard talent.
America has invested in many dreamers for years. Many are smart, hard-working, and capable of being productive members of our society.
That counts for something.
Those who agree to serve or have served in the military and have been honorably discharged have earned a path to citizenship. Those who earn college degrees – without federal aid – could be worthy as well.
But it should be a years-long process. People convicted of crimes more serious than a speeding ticket or other minor offense should be deemed ineligible to stay.
Any compromise also should require employers nationwide to use the E-Verify system to ensure the people they hire are eligible to work. This will not only prevent the hire of people without legal status, but it also will protect them from exploitation.
It is not cruelty for a nation to enforce its immigration laws. Those laws can be modified, but all sovereign countries have the absolute right to decide who can cross their borders and how long they can stay.