How to Revise the DREAM Act, Part I: Remove Egregious Loopholes

By Stanley Renshon and Stanley Renshon on December 30, 2010

Debra Saunders makes the very good suggestion in her column on the most useful starting place for revising the DREAM Act: "If Republicans write the bill, [is that] they can make sure the Dream does not include egregious loopholes." She doesn't name the offending culprits, but they are obvious:

1. The DREAM Act voted down in this month's lame duck congressional session included a safe harbor provision that allowed any illegal immigrant to submit an application for adjustment under the bill and in doing become instantly protected against any immigration enforcement. Or, as the congressional summary puts it, the bill "Prohibits the Secretary from removing an alien with a pending application who establishes prima facie eligibility for cancellation of removal and conditional nonimmigrant status."

2. The bill provides for fines for any applicant who, "willfully and knowingly falsifies, misrepresents, or conceals a material fact or makes any false or fraudulent statement or representation, or makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any false or fraudulent statement or entry."

Yet it also prohibits the "use the information furnished by an individual pursuant to an application filed under this Act to initiate removal proceedings against any person identified in the application."

In other words, the measure provided substantial incentives for applicants who had no standing to benefit from the legislation because they were not brought to the United States as children, or did not meet others of the bill's requirements, to assert that they were eligible because such an assertion would freeze their status and prohibit their deportation until such times as their cases were resolved. Moreover, their false claims could not be used against them in any removal proceeding.

3. The bill essentially waived serious past criminal conduct. More specifically, the applicant could still be admitted if he or she "has not been convicted of--(I) any offense under Federal or State law punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of more than 1 year; or (II) 3 or more offenses under Federal or State law, for which the alien was convicted on different dates for each of the 3 offenses and sentenced to imprisonment for an aggregate of 90 days or more."

An aide to bill sponsor Sen. Richard Durbin is quoted as arguing that "No serious crimes would be allowed…Misdemeanor crimes are all minor crimes by definition. ... Murderers are not going to be eligible under the DREAM Act."

That aide is right about murder not being allowed, but there are serious crimes short of murder. State statutes vary with regard to the definition of misdemeanors and some states distinguish between Class A and Class B misdemeanors. Class A misdemeanors can include endangering a child's welfare, some forms of assault, engaging in prostitution or soliciting a prostitute, writing bad checks, reckless driving, and driving under the influence. One senator noted that bill as written would allow the following to be eligible for amnesty: "alien absconders (aliens who failed to attend their removal proceedings), aliens who have engaged in voter fraud or unlawfully voted, aliens who have falsely claimed U.S. citizenship, aliens who have abused their student visas, and aliens who have committed marriage fraud. Additionally, illegal aliens who pose a public health risk, aliens who have been permanently barred from obtaining U.S. citizenship, and aliens who are likely to become a public charge are also eligible."

It is hard to reconcile giving persons convicted of such crimes a pass with the stipulation contained elsewhere in this and past legalization bills that the applicant has been and must be "a person of good moral character since the date the alien initially entered the United States." Nor should any future legislation have to try and do so.

Next: How to Revise the Dream Act, Part II: The Permanent Administrative Visa

Topics: DREAM Act