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20 March 2012

Repudiation: Republicans Against Republican Ideas

Lamar Smith of Texas
The Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Lamar Smith, wrote an opinion piece for Fox News today, The Truth about the DREAM Act.
The DREAM Act has become a rallying cry for President Obama, members of his administration, and liberal Democrats everywhere. President Obama has vowed to “keep fighting for the DREAM Act,” which would grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants.
It’s true when listeners or those polled don’t know the facts that the DREAM Act has some appeal. After all, we are all naturally sympathetic when children are involved.
So, what is President Obama's DREAM Act?
The DREAM Act (acronym for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) is an American legislative proposal first introduced in the Senate on August 1, 2001[1] by Dick Durbin and Orrin Hatch. [2] The act was most recently reintroduced to the senate on May 11, 2011.
This bill would provide conditional permanent residency to certain illegal aliens of good moral character who graduate from U.S. high schools, arrived in the United States as minors, and lived in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill's enactment. If they were to complete two years in the military or two years at a four-year institution of higher learning, they would obtain temporary residency for a six-year period. Within the six-year period, they may qualify if they have "acquired a degree from an institution of higher education in the United States or has completed at least 2 years, in good standing, in a program for a bachelor's degree or higher degree in the United States" or have "served in the armed services for at least 2 years and, if discharged, has received an honorable discharge".[3] Military enlistment contracts require an eight-year commitment, with active duty commitments typically between four and six years, but as low as two years.[4][5] "Any alien whose permanent resident status is terminated... shall return to the immigration status the alien had immediately prior to receiving conditional permanent resident status under this Act."[6] This bill would have included illegal immigrants as old as 35 years of age.
Let's slow down a minute.  This isn't legislation that originated with President Barack Obama.  Rather, it was bi-partisan legislation that was first sponsored by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah.  According to the Library of Congress, Dick Durbin was one of eighteen co-sponsors.  Other co-sponsors included Republicans Sam Brownback, now Governor of Kansas, Larry Craig of Idaho, who had an airport bathroom scandal involving lewd behavior, Mike DeWine, now Attorney General of Ohio, Pete Domenici of New Mexico, retired, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Richard Lugar of Indiana.

To be fair, since Barack Obama was inaugurated President of the United States, Senator Hatch has done an about face on his own legislation.  One can speculate as to why.  The answer from Senator Hatch's spokeswoman, Antonia Ferrier, is not convincing:  “He believes that we have to get tough on border security because the American people will have no faith in any immigration legislation until we do that,” she said in an email.

Back to Lamar Smith's opinion article.  He complains that many students will be older, which is true.  He then continues
DREAM Act proposals are also a magnet for fraud. Many illegal immigrants will fraudulently claim they came here as children or that they are under 30. And the federal government has no way to check whether their claims are true or not.
Such massive fraud occurred after the 1986 amnesty for illegal immigrants who claimed they were agricultural workers. Studies found two-thirds of all applications for the 1986 amnesty were fraudulent.
This is not the first time that Mr. Smith has made this allegation of studies finding massive amounts of fraud in 1986.  He made the same claim a decade ago, although links from the article at the Center for Immigration Studies to the studies he cites are broken.  More importantly, a study last year at American University refutes the allegation of fraud.

The rest of Mr. Smith's article is a complaint that President Obama is soft on illegal immigration.  According to the Pew Research Center, illegal immigration peaked in 2007 under President George W. Bush and has declined since ... a reversal of an annual increase for almost a decade.  This is likely due to the Great Recession followed by increasing border security under President Obama.

Since President Obama was elected, Republicans have done everything in their power to undermine his efficacy.  This includes working against their own ideas.  One can argue that we should simply deport all who are here illegally.  One can argue that those who have the greatest potential to help the United States should be allowed a path to legal residency and perhaps citizenship.  But arguing against one's own ideas only makes sense when the motive is no longer what is best for the country but what is best for the political party.

Is the visible animosity to President Obama purely partisan?  My guess is that there is a racial element.  While institutional racism has been illegal in the United States for half a century, it takes longer for old prejudices to be entirely eradicated.  The evidence for racism are the claims that Barack Obama is not a United States citizen or not a Christian, easily belied by his long form birth certificate and the controversies over Jeremiah Wright.

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