The DREAM Act Is Left Policy Now, Apparently 


A coalition of Senate Democrats agreed to reopen the government earlier this week on the condition that a snake party overrun with racists promise to act in good faith on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program that extended temporary protection from deportation to nearly 800,000 immigrants brought to the United States as children.

In a piece mapping the political factions that now have to come together to do this very unlikely thing, Politico offered the following:

  • “The Doves”: want $2.7 billion for border security and partial funding for the wall plus a deal for DACA recipients that would include a path to citizenship but preclude any later paths to citizenship for their parents
  • “The Hawks”: want to severely limit current avenues of legal immigration, steroids for enforcement agencies and mechanisms of removal, some kind of agreement on DACA except no green cards and no path to citizenship for recipients
  • “The Lefties”: want to pass the DREAM Act without strings
  • “The Swingers”: want to keep “their options open,” but have taken meetings with Doves and Hawks
  • “The Wild Cards”: is President Trump, incoherent man

The piece is right about the various blocs fighting over potential legislation and the mess of any path forward, but the corresponding categorization of these groups is a bizarre concession to the extremism of the Republican Party. The terms of the debate have shifted so far to the right that even support for milquetoast centrist policy is being recoded as progressive. Overton Window something something, etc.

It feels important in these moments to remind ourselves what the terms of the debate actually are, and what these policies actually do: The DREAM Act is a narrow piece of bipartisan legislation that has been kicking around Congress for nearly two decades. Utah Republican Orrin Hatch was an original cosponsor of the bill in 2001. That is the political universe from which the DREAM Act emerged. It has always been designed specifically to be the most conservative possible version of any sort of path to legal residency for the currently undocumented.

In order to be eligible for the current version of the DREAM Act, a person must have entered the country before the age of 18; have the equivalent of a high school degree, attend college, or enlist in the military; and have a a clean criminal record. Check off those boxes, and you can get permanent resident status. The path to citizenship, after these hurdles are cleared, involves more hurdles.

In the unlikely event that a clean version of the DREAM Act passes this Congress, eligible immigrants would still be faced with the potential deportation of their parents, older siblings, and relatives. This is precisely why so many undocumented immigrants and DREAM-eligible young people, an actual left coalition, have rejected the terms of the current debate.

As a general rule, Orrin Hatch does not co-sponsor left policy. The overt white nationalization of the Republican Party doesn’t change that.

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