Friday, May 20, 2011

It Is Too Much to DREAM

I am about to make a very controversial statement: I do not support the DREAM Act that numerous immigration groups are attempting to pass. This may seem downright treasonous as I came to this country as an immigrant many years ago, and only last year received my naturalized U.S. citizenship. Perhaps that is a valid assessment -- that I am either a traitor or a hypocrite to a positive political movement. But I have my reasons.

First let's understand what the DREAM Act is. The DREAM stands for "Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors" and it is a legislative proposal first introduced a decade ago (on May 11th, 2001) to grant amnesty for certain illegal immigrants. These illegal immigrants are namely the children of illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States at ages too young for them to understand their circumstances. Proponents of the DREAM Act contend (rightfully so) that these children should not bear the burden of their parent's audacity. Most of these children end up graduating from high schools and many will proceed to attend college. The problem is, they have no legal status to stay in the United States and could be deported anytime.

The DREAM Act steps in by providing conditional permanent residency to these children of illegal immigrants, provided that they do graduate from U.S. high schools and either (1) serve in the military for at least 2 years or (2) graduate from college. The underlying premise is that these immigrants have received solid education and are in a position to enter the workforce as competent workers. Many of them are as qualified as their American-born counterparts -- in some cases even excel due to the adversity they have faced. But alas, this DREAM Act has yet to be passed; it has suffered a cycle of being introduced, argued on, then rejected. Its most recent iteration was introduced on May 11th, 2011.

So why would I be against the DREAM Act? Part of it is that it is nothing more than a wonderful dream, and another part is from my own experiences (which I think it would be better to leave for last).

I say "wonderful dream" because the political climate here in the United States simply does not allow it -- nor allow it for the foreseeable future. People are hysterical enough already about immigrants taking away jobs. Therefore, it is suicide for anyone to pin their political careers on this issue; no politician will do it. More alarmingly, the public largely have a negative opinion of illegal immigrants (e.g. that they are criminals). This is stereotypes working at their worst, which sadly makes amnesty out of the question. A reasonable analogy may be the presidential pardon Gerald Ford granted Richard Nixon -- Ford was an able president and I agree with the pardon of Nixon (so we can move on), but the public disliked him for it. Ford's pardon of Nixon cost the former a possible reelection. Even President Obama seems to know his history as the author of this article decries.

Now it's time to present my own perspective. I do not support the DREAM Act because it is an unfair solution to a massive problem. Why is it "unfair"? It is unfair for legal immigrants who opted to apply for entry into the United States through the available means of doing so. My parents did it; I am certain millions others have done it too. Entry into the United States is at minimum an arduous process: one has to be qualified under the stringent standards set by USCIS, reside for a number of years, apply for green card, before finally able to apply for citizenship. The movement through each step of the process involves significant time -- plus addition complications. Passing the DREAM Act would essentially be discriminating in favor of only one group of individuals. Furthermore, the latter is a very small group when compared to the number of eligible (and desiring) legal immigrants.

The stance presented is the result of having worked for 6 months at a respectable immigration law firm. I was put into the department dealing with H1B visas, which is the first step for anyone intending to stay in the United States. An overwhelming number of our clients were individuals from India and China, who sought to work here in the United States. Despite impeccable academic backgrounds and experience, some applicants were still rejected for no other reason than the existence of a "cap" on the number of admitted individuals per year. (The rejection rate was probably much higher at other law firms -- we were amongst the best in the business.) Even for those whose applications are approved, they have to stay for 6 years (two H1Bs) before beginning the process to obtain a green card. The green card process often adds many more years, depends on the USCIS classification assigned to the nature of their work (e.g. talented scientists received theirs much quicker). Not to mention another possibility of rejections. When one finally receives a green card and waits to petition to become a U.S. citizen, fifteen years could have easily elapsed since an individual first applied for a H1B.

In hindsight, how can you grant an expedited process to one group but not to another? Out of compassion because children of illegal immigrants do not know better? That line of reasoning is flawed because it creates an incentive for more illegal immigrants to follow suit. Illegal immigrants come to this country often not for themselves, rather, it is to seek a brighter future for their children. In addition, legal immigrants also frequently face deportation. Can you imagine telling a soon-to-be-deported child of a legal immigrant, "if your parents came here illegally, you wouldn't have to be deported now"? It's a ridiculous scenario but it holds water.

Ultimately, I like the DREAM Act for the solution it offers. But I do not support it because that solution is discriminating, unfair against the bulk of the immigrant population. I hope that one day the entire immigration system can be reformed for the better. Until that day comes, I know the best solution for illegal immigrants to acquire legal status is marry an American citizen...

No comments:

Post a Comment