Schumer Calls for DREAM Amnesty

DREAMers are just the bait; "citizenship for all 11 million, or however many” illegal aliens there are here is the hook

By Andrew R. Arthur on November 17, 2022

On November 16, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) held a press conference in front of the Capitol in which he called for amnesty for “DREAMers”, aliens brought illegally to the United States as children. As he did so, however, he pulled back the curtain on his end game – to “get a path to citizenship for all 11 million, or however many undocumented, there are here”. The DREAMers are the bait, while a full and total amnesty is the hook.

DREAMers, In Brief. Amnesty legislation for aliens who arrived in their youth has a long, but not particularly successful pedigree. Here’s a brief recap.

In August 2001, then-Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced a bipartisan “DREAM Act”, which included 18 cosponsors. That bill would have granted amnesty to aliens unlawfully present for five years who entered under the age of 21, and who met certain work and educational requirements.

The timing of that bill could not have been worse, because less than six weeks later, the September 11 attacks showed how foolhardy such blanket amnesties were. Nonetheless, similar “DREAM Acts” were subsequently introduced in later Congresses.

One bears special note. In March 2009, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) offered up the “DREAM Act of 2009” during the 111th Congress.

At that time, Barack Obama was president, Democrats held an overwhelming majority in the House, and from September 24, 2009 (when Democrat Paul Kirk was appointed to fill the seat of the late Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy) through February 4, 2010 (when Republican Scott Brown was elected to fill Kennedy’s seat), Democrats held a filibuster-proof majority of 60 seats in the Senate.

Obama’s fellow Democrats could have passed any bill they wanted – including and in particular the DREAM Act of 2009 – without any Republican votes at all. But that bill went nowhere. Cosponsor and then-Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) did not even bring it up for a vote in committee.

That said, two Republican senators – Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) – were cosponsors of the DREAM Act of 2009, so they probably would have blocked a filibuster even during the months Democrats only controlled a measly 59 seats in the upper chamber.

Obama blamed Republicans for the failure to pass a DREAM Act, but the fault really lies with him and congressional Democrats alone – DREAM Act legislation simply was not a priority for a party that held a hammerlock on the legislative process.

The popularity of legislation to “protect” the DACA population has been a key talking point for years (I was the punching boy for Democrats at a House hearing on the issue in March 2019), but let’s face it – if it really were all that popular, it would have been a shoo-in in the 111th Congress.

DACA. The failure of DREAM Act legislation led to a program called “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” or DACA. It grants quasi-legal status to aliens who entered the United States while under the age of 16 before June 15, 2007, who are currently under the age of 41, who meet certain educational standards, and have not been convicted of certain crimes.

DACA was not created by Congress, or even by executive order or executive action (for what that is worth). It’s the product of a memo issued by then-DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano on June 15, 2012. In my considered legal opinion, Napolitano lacked the authority to create DACA (the Fifth Circuit ruled in October that the program is unlawful, but the Supreme Court has yet to weigh in), but in any event, it sets a bad precedent.

Want proof? Here’s what the editorial board of the Washington Post had to say when President Obama was considering expanding DACA to include parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents in 2014:

The president should think twice. Some of the same Democrats and pro-immigrant advocates urging him to protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation would be outraged if a Republican president took a similarly selective approach to enforcing the laws — say, those that guarantee voting rights or prohibit employment discrimination.

Obama ignored the Post editorial board and created something called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). DAPA proved to be a bridge too far for Texas and several other states, who successfully sued to block its implementation.

Despite all of this, DACA continues, and the Biden administration recently issued a new rule, effective October 31, “to preserve and fortify” the decade-old program.

A Sympathetic Population. The DACA population is admittedly sympathetic. The vast majority of the approximately 650,000 current DACA beneficiaries were removable a decade ago, but in the intervening years they have been living in a quasi-legal status thanks to some questionable administrative actions.

Even President Trump, in his 2018 State of the Union address, offered up a plan to legalize not just DACA recipients but also a total of 1.8 million “DACA-eligible” aliens – more or less the same individuals covered by the DREAM Act.

Trump put conditions on his plan (including a reduction in chain-migration categories and an end to the “diversity visa” lottery), but his was simply an opening offer, and none of his conditions should have been deal breakers had congressional Democrats really been that interested in DREAMers. So, why didn’t that offer go anywhere?

Schumer. Which brings me to Sen. Schumer’s speech in front of the Capitol this week. Here’s what he had to say:

Now more than ever we're short of workers. We have a population that is not reproducing on its own with the same level that it used to. The only way we’re going to have a great future in America is if we welcome and embrace immigrants the DREAMers and all of them because our ultimate goal is to help the DREAMers -- but get a path to citizenship for all 11 million, or however many undocumented, there are here.

Side Issues. There is a lot to unpack there, much of it having nothing to do with the subject at hand.

There is no evidence that the United States has a “shortage of workers”. Instead, it has a shortage of Americans (both citizens and lawful immigrants) who are willing to work. As my colleague Steve Camarota explained on November 15:

The low unemployment rate is misleading because it includes only those who have looked for a job in the last four weeks. It does not include all the working-age people who are not working or even looking for a job. That number has exploded in recent decades, particularly among the less educated. Research by myself and Karen Zeigler shows that there were 48 million 18- to 64-year-olds not working or looking for work in the first part of 2022 — nearly 12 million more than in 2000.

In fact, Camarota noted, “Of the roughly 48 million immigrants in the country, only 29 million are actually working”.

And don’t look now, but any “shortage of workers” likely won’t be a problem soon even if it is one now.

Jeff Bezos – who founded Amazon and who makes his money selling products in a consumer society  “warned consumers and businesses” on November 14 “they should consider postponing large purchases in the coming months as the global economy contends with a downturn and faces a possible recession”.

Assuming that were not in a recession now, one is coming. Bloomberg puts the odds of it in the coming year at “100 percent”. Rising unemployment is a “lagging indicator” of a recession, one that occurs just as things get really bad, and Bezos would know: Amazon announced that it will be cutting 10,000 jobs.

Unemployment hurts the working poor most, and while those at the higher end of the economic scale may benefit from increased immigration, the same cannot be said of those on the other end, a point my colleague Mark Krikorian underscored on November 16:

A comprehensive 2016 study from the National Academies found that by increasing the supply of labor, immigration reduces the wages for competing U.S.-born workers, undermining the incentive to work. . . . .

This decline in work contributes to a host of costly social problems, such as crime, drug addiction, and family breakdown.

Schumer’s concerns about population growth, on the other hand, elide the fact that while we may “have a population that is not reproducing on its own with the same level that it used to”, the U.S. population isn’t falling into the sort of downward spiral that China’s is, either.

In fact, according to the Census Bureau, the U.S. population is more than 333 million and has a net gain of one person every 41 seconds. It adds up: the U.S. population on November 16, 2022 increased by more than 1.5 million from the same date in 2020.

Part of that increase is attributable to immigration, but try driving from Los Angeles to Newport Beach on the 405, or from Springfield, Va. to D.C. on I-395, or from Hoboken, N.J. to New York City through the Lincoln Tunnel at any time of day and tell me that the biggest problem in the United States today is too few people.

“A Path to Citizenship for All 11 Million, or However Many”. Returning to the point, however, note Schumer’s statement, “our ultimate goal is to help the DREAMers but get a path to citizenship for all 11 million, or however many undocumented, there are here”

The Majority Leader, likely accidentally, gave up the end game. One cannot have two “ultimate goals” – one will be “penultimate” or somewhere further down the line, and one will be “ultimate”. And you cannot have “a path to citizenship” (read: “amnesty”) for “all” 11 million-plus aliens (even Schumer doesn’t know the total) that does not include DREAMers.

That’s the dirty secret, and why there hasn’t been a successful DREAM Act despite 21 years of trying. DREAMers are more sympathetic than the 25-year-old single adult male who entered six months ago from San Pedro Sula or Oaxaca, and thus those aliens who entered illegally and putatively unwillingly as children are simply the stalking horse for the real prize – amnesty leading to “citizenship for all 11 million, or however many undocumented, there are here”.

Once the children are legalized, pressure will build to legalize their parents and siblings, too. “It’s not fair to separate families” will be the next chorus. And once you have granted amnesty to millions, “Why not a few million more? Legalize everybody and then, we will never have another amnesty again. I promise.”

That was the promise in 1986, when President Reagan signed legislation that legalized nearly 2.7 million “undocumented” aliens. It was a lie then, and it will be a lie every time it is stated in the future. If you don’t believe me, read Schumer’s statements again.

What he said is no more or less true than it would be if the population were 350 million, 400 million, a half billion. Oh, and did I mention that then-Rep. Chuck Schumer “was among many players who made the” 1986 amnesty “possible”? This is not his first rodeo.

Why Not? Why is Schumer pushing amnesty in front of the Capitol now? Because he is desperate to get it done in the “lame duck” session between now and January 3 when Republicans will take control of the House at the start of the 118th Congress.

The new speaker presumptive, Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), campaigned on securing the border, and knows that amnesty will simply encourage even more foreign nationals to start the trek to the United States illegally.

Even if he hadn’t made that vow, McCarthy would control a slim majority in the lower chamber, and thus would not take any action that did not have the support of “a majority of the majority”. And a majority of congressional Republicans don’t support amnesty.

The clock is running for Schumer to get amnesty out of the 117th Congress. Current Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) supports amnesty and has nothing to lose, so she will simply ignore any complaints about “procedure” or “regular order” from the right of the House.

Schumer will still need to get 60 votes in the Senate, and he only has 49 other fellow Democrats. Five Republican senators are retiring  Richard Burr (N.C.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), Rob Portman (Ohio), Richard Shelby (Ala.), and Roy Blunt (Mo.). It’s doubtful any would support a full amnesty, but many may be sympathetic to a DREAMer amnesty.

Any number of other Republicans in the Senate may also want to dispense with the DREAMer issue and start fresh on border security in January. Again, those aliens are more sympathetic than most.

No Republican, nor any Democrat for that matter, should fall for this scam. Schumer has given up the game – DREAM Act amnesty is just the bait, amnesty for “all 11 million, or however many undocumented, there are here” is the hook. They shouldn’t bite.