The Wall Street Journal editorialized in favor of the DREAM Act today. Here are a few excerpts:
The immigration debate continues to fester in the absence of any White House leadership. But it’s in the interests of the country that Republicans in the next Congress find some room for compromise, and pending legislation aimed at undocumented youths is a good place to start.
The Dream Act would create a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrant children who attend college or join the military. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has announced that he will schedule a vote on the measure during the lame duck session of Congress. Our sources say Mr. Reid probably lacks the Democratic votes to pass the bill, even if a few Republicans support it. Mr. Reid has behaved cynically on immigration and many Republicans suspect that his real goal is to spin GOP votes against the bill as evidence that Republicans are anti-immigrant.
Republicans are under no obligation to play Mr. Reid’s game and give cover to a White House and Democratic Congress that promised to make immigration reform a priority but haven’t done so. Still, the Dream Act has enjoyed Republican support in the past from the likes of Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah and Richard Lugar of Indiana. And come January, the measure deserves to be part of any GOP effort to tackle immigration reform.
Restrictionists dismiss the Dream Act as an amnesty that rewards people who entered the country illegally. But the bill targets individuals brought here by their parents as children. What is to be gained by holding otherwise law-abiding young people, who had no say in coming to this country, responsible for the illegal actions of others? The Dream Act also makes legal status contingent on school achievement and military service, the type of behavior that ought to be encouraged and rewarded.
We’d prefer that border reform start by expanding legal channels of entry for people who come here to work. There would be little need for a Dream Act if more U.S. work visas had been available for the parents of these children. The U.S. focus on border security has, along with the economic downturn, had some effect on reducing illegal entries. But walls, fences and employer crackdowns mainly produce thriving markets in human smuggling and document fraud and make a mockery of the rule of law, especially in some border areas.
Supporting the Dream Act also makes political sense for Republicans, who will have a tough time winning national elections without more Hispanic support. Polls show that Hispanic-American priorities tend to match those of other voters—the economy, jobs, education and so forth. Nevertheless, immigration has symbolic importance among Hispanics as a sign of political recognition and respect.
If Republicans hope to limit President Obama to one term, they’ll need to win in Mountain West states—Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico—with fast-growing Hispanic populations. The Dream Act is an opportunity for the GOP to send a welcoming signal to these voters. More important, it would do right by undocumented youths who did nothing to deserve their current vulnerability to deportation.