In the public imagination, the dreamers are folks who were brought to the U.S. by their parents as young children. They are unfamiliar with the country where they were born and would be lost if forced to return there. They are hard-working and law abiding. Many attend college or serve in the military.
But one can be a “dreamer” for purposes of benefiting from DACA without fitting any part of this description, much less all of it. Jason Richwine points out that a dreamer can be someone who entered the country illegally at age 15 and has been here only five years. He (or she) need not speak English. He can have up to two convictions for certain misdemeanors, and the misdemeanors may be the result of pleading down from felony charges.
Moreover, DACA dreamers need not attend college or serve in the military. In fact, they need not even graduate from high school. Those without a high-school diploma merely need to be involved in some sort of training.
Dreamers do tend to be hard-working, it appears. Mickey Kaus cites a recent survey conducted for several pro-dreamer groups, with participants recruited by those groups. It found that while most dreamers are not in school, the vast majority work. However, their median hourly wage is only $15.34. This means that many are competing with hard-pressed lower-skilled Americans.
The public’s sympathy is with dreamers whose history fits entirely or largely within the sympathetic narrative outlined at the beginning of this post. I doubt the public favors amnesty for illegal immigrants who, for example, entered this country on their own at age 15, never learned English, committed one or two crimes, and never finished high school.
Thus, I agree with Richwine that if Congress wishes to grant amnesty to a select group of sympathetic people, there is no legal or ethical reason why that amnesty should apply to all existing DACA recipients. Congress should, if it grants amnesty, grant it only to a subset of dreamers who fit the sympathetic profile.
To no one’s surprise, however, things are moving very much in the opposite direction. According to Byron York, the Schumer-Durbin-Graham-Flake Dream Act legislation tolerates more criminal activity, expands the eligible age range, and shortens the required tenure in the U.S.
The shift would vastly increase the scope of the amnesty. According to Mark Krikorian, a simple DACA fix, without any tightening of the criteria, would apply to the 690,000 people who applied in good faith for Obama’s program, and whose work permits will start expiring after March 5. (Another roughly 100,000 received a DACA work permit at some point but no longer have one, either because they failed to renew, they were deported for criminal activity, or they finagled a permanent green card.)
What about the Schumer-Durbin-Graham-Flake proposal? It could mean amnesty nearly 2 million people, according to the immigration-expansionist Migration Policy Institute.
In his interview with Charlie Rose, Steve Bannon viewed any form of DACA amnesty as a betrayal of Trump’s nationalist agenda — one that likely would doom the GOP and Trump. I wouldn’t go that far.
But amnesty for anything approaching two million illegal immigrants — a tripling of Obama’s DACA amnesty — would feel like a betrayal. If Trump signs such legislation, it had better include funding for a wall, e-verify, and more.
But don’t expect the Senate to include much of this. Chuck, Nancy, and their Republican allies want a “clean amnesty,” and it’s far from clear that, if push comes to shove, Trump will stand in their way.
UPDATE: The Washington Post reports that President Trump and top Democratic leaders, with whom he dined tonight, agreed to work out an agreement to save DACA-dreamers. The Post says the deal would protect the roughly 690,000 people covered by the current DACA program (but not, I take it, other “dreamers”) and would include a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s “acceptable to both sides.”
Preserving DACA, no wall, and only border security measures acceptable to the Dems. If that’s the deal, it sounds like a win for Chuck and Nancy.