- DONE AQUÍ
Recent reactions to a proposal from Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich to support a modified version of the DREAM Act for individuals who serve in the military have ranged from dismissive to derisive. These are understandable; such a bargain, offered by men who made great efforts to avoid military service in Vietnam, seems disingenuous. Yet this proposal contains a subliminal and important concession: citizenship can be earned through undertaking certain acts. With this admission in hand, advocates of the DREAM act now have a far more advantageous position from which to begin the debate over citizenship for undocumented immigrants—rather than being forced to engage in a discussion of whether any compromise can be reached which allows undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States and embark on a path to citizenship.
This is a far more preferable debate; if proponents of the DREAM Act can move beyond emotional reactions from opponents, avoiding charged terms such ‘amnesty’ and the notion that merely being in the country is an illegal act justifying immediate arrest and deportation, engaging in the debate over the DREAM Act as a cost/benefit calculation for not only potential college students but also current citizens. Indeed, the fact Governor Romney, Speaker Gingrich, and Senator Santorum have yet to propose concrete immigration reforms (instead pandering to the likes of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and other nativist interest groups) is conscious; if there is no plan to reform immigration, they can conjure up a boogie-man scenario of an unregulated flow of undocumented individuals into the country, thereby appealing to the most basic fears of their base.
If even conservative candidates, while appealing to the most conservative wing of the Republican Party, make such an admission, there is certainly hope for measures such as the DREAM Act. As discussed previously, the notion of undocumented immigrants ‘stealing’ spots from citizens is utter nonsense, and largely relegates qualified college candidates to a life of poverty and dependence on government services. However, if proponents of the DREAM Act and similarly sensible legislation that benefits both undocumented workers and documented Americans begin the discussion with those GOP votersnot with their question of how to stop a non-existent “threat”, but instead with a question of what it means to be an American and what acts should allow one to earn citizenship, a far more positive and constructive outcome is possible. Surprisingly, this discussion began with the current GOP field—a fact that should not be ignored in such discussions.
Charles is an Alumni Research Fellow and Ph.D Candidate at the University of Florida.