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Immigrant advocacy groups have organized protests, hunger strikes and prayer vigils across the United States to rally support for the DREAM Act. The immigration bill offers a path to citizenship for young adults brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Among the requirements for achieving legal status would be two years of college or military service. Congress is expected to take up the DREAM Act this week. Critics argue it would reward – and even encourage – illegal immigration. Supporters say it’s a fair way to deal with a problem affecting about two million young people through no fault of their own.
- Lucy Martinez sophomore at University of Texas, San Antonio; she's on a hunger strike to raise support for the DREAM Act.
- Suzanne Gamboa immigration reporter, the Associated Press.
- Angela Kelley vice president for immigration policy and advocacy, Center for American Progress.
- Steven Camarota director of research, Center for Immigration Studies.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. What to do about illegal immigration has generated fierce debate in the U.S. The Obama administration has made little progress on a comprehensive immigration overhaul. But in recent days, the White House has been urging support for a more limited proposal -- the DREAM Act. Congress is expected to consider the bill this week. It offers a way for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to gain legal status.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me in the studio to talk about the DREAM Act, Angela Kelley of the Center for American Progress, Suzanne Gamboa of the Associated Press and Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies. I do invite your comments, questions, during the hour. You can join us on 800-433-8850. Send us an e-mail to email@example.com. Feel free to join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to all of you.
MS. ANGELA KELLEYGood morning.
MS. SUZANNE GAMBOAGood morning.
MR. STEVEN CAMAROTAGood morning.
REHMSuzanne, if I could start you. Explain what it is the DREAM Act proposes.
GAMBOAWell, the DREAM Act proposes to give a sort of conditional legal status -- it's not a full legal status -- to young people and young adults because some people were here -- it would affect people who came a long time ago and have been waiting for this to go through, and they would have to have finished high school and be on their way to going to college or in the military. The DREAM Act asked that they give two years of either of that to sort of put them on this path toward eventually being able to apply to be a legal permanent resident, which is a first step toward citizenship.
REHMSo that is the conditional element here.
GAMBOARight. And I should have also said that these would be -- is intended to target kids who were brought here by their parents when their parents entered illegally into the country.
REHMAnd how long would this be in place? I mean, if you came now with a child under six, you could not?
GAMBOANo, no. This is -- this would apply -- they would have to have at least been 16 or less when you got here, and -- oh, I'm sorry -- before your 16th birthday, you have -- could not have yet turned 16, so the day before you turn 16. So under 16 when you got here. And it would not apply to people who already -- if it goes through, and you come later, it's not going to be in there for you.
REHMI see. It doesn't apply for anyone going forward.
REHMIt is simply for those who are here now. Angela?
KELLEYYeah, just to amplify a little bit, what Suzanne said is spot on right. It's a very limited program for a defined population. It's for people who have been in the U.S. for five years or longer before enactment. So let's say the bill was passed this month, in December of 2010. You have to have been here by December of 2005 in order to qualify. You have to have been younger than 16 years old, as Suzanne said, in order to qualify. You can't be older than 29 years old in order to qualify.
REHMI thought it was 35 years. That's been changed now to 29.
KELLEYNo. They've changed the age.
REHMOkay. I see.
KELLEYThey lowered the age, and the one that will move is that one. And the bill has a deadline. It has a hard stop. You have to register for the program within one year of getting the high school degree or the GED or being admitted to college or the date of enactment in order to qualify for relief. So it's a very defined program for a specific population. It wouldn't provide a magnet. Nobody could come here and say, I have a child, I get to qualify. No, because they wouldn't. They have to have already been here.
REHMSo, in effect, how long would it take for someone to move through this whole set of qualifications?
CAMAROTAWell, in some cases, it would be very quickly because we think there are about 100,000 who already have, say, two years of college under their belt and meet the residency and age requirements. So those individuals could come forward very quickly...
CAMAROTA...and move. And then, on the other hand, there are some who are quite young right now. They'd have to wait. There are maybe half a million to 800,000 who are people we expect to graduate from high school...
CAMAROTA...who also could qualify for the Act. The total number's probably about, now with the change in the age, 1.5, 1.8 million.
REHMAnd, Steve, what do you think of this plan?
CAMAROTAWell, I think we all agree that people brought here as children, especially very young children, are a very sympathetic group. And I think we need to look at ways to provide some kind of legal status form, whether it's a green card and citizenship is another question. But, still, the bill is very expansive, even with the change at the top age. Because, remember, if you came at age 15, and you've -- and, say, you're 20 years old right now -- your life -- you'd speak your home country's language, most of your life was lived there, nonetheless you could still qualify from this Act.
CAMAROTASo it's expansive in that way. And it doesn't take any consideration of the impact on America's public colleges and universities, where most of the roughly one million new students we expect to enroll to try to meet these requirements -- these are institutions that are already busting at the seams and turning away American citizens and legal immigrants. You have to think about that.
REHMYou're saying that they would, in effect, take their places?
CAMAROTAWell, we have to recognize, particularly at community colleges where most of us expect these individuals to enroll, both funding and spaces are limited. So if Congress passes this, and you're looking at an increase -- immediate increase or short term, half a million or maybe another half million in the long term -- that's going to have an impact.
REHMSteven Camarota, he's director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies. Suzanne Gamboa is immigration reporter for the Associated Press. Angela Kelley is vice president for immigration policy and advocacy at the Center for American Progress. Angie, what do supporters of this bill like most about it?
KELLEYI think what they like most is that it takes a very vulnerable group of people -- children -- who were brought here through no choice of their own. It was their parents' decision to come. This is a tough program for young people. And it gives them a chance to maximize their potential, to give back to a country that they lived in, really, their -- most of their lives. It requires them to stay on the straight and narrow. They have to either complete college or serve in the military -- has been endorsed by the Department of Defense by Secretary Gates for that reason.
KELLEYIt requires them to pay back taxes if they're a bit older and have been working, requires them to pay taxes in the future. The CBO has scored this as a winner. It would reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion over the next 10 years. And this isn't an answer to our broken immigration system, Diane.
REHMTell me how it would reduce the deficit.
KELLEYSure. Because we know that people make more money, the better educated they are. When people were legalized back in the late '80s, their wages went up by 15 percent in just a few years. So you would have young people who would be working at Microsoft and not at McDonalds.
REHMAnd how do you address Steven's point that, given the fact that public institutions, universities are bursting at the seams, that these individuals would simply be taking the places of those who are legal citizens?
KELLEYYeah, you know, it's interesting because about 100 colleges and universities are actively supporting the DREAM Act -- from the Owens Community College in Ohio to Harvard University. What -- there are already 10 states that do permit undocumented students to enroll in their colleges and universities. Those universities and those colleges have seen no adverse effects by having undocumented students already enrolled. And, look, the truth is, Diane, that most of these kids are going to go to community college. And we know that about 80 percent of people who go to community college are also working. And their earnings, their taxes go to state and local government revenues.
KELLEYAnd what we've seen is that you get about 16 percent return on every dollar invested by community colleges because of people's increased earnings -- this is by the American Association of Community Colleges. And then, frankly, what's the alternative? Are we going to deport one million kids? That would cost us about $25 billion. So here are people who belong, who speak English, they have to stay on the straight and narrow, they have to prove good moral character, serve in our armed forces or go to college. If we can't protect these people, then something is seriously wrong with our lawmakers.
REHMSteve, you're also concerned that the DREAM Act would then, in effect, help those young people to then sponsor their parents as citizens?
CAMAROTARight. One of the things the Act would do is eventually you get citizenship. And all U.S. citizens are allowed to sponsor their parents without numerical limit. So one argument for the DREAM Act is, look, we're not benefiting the parents. But, actually, the way the law is constructed that is the inevitable outcome of the Act. Once a person has citizenship, they'll be able to sponsor their parents. Would every single person do that? No. But, certainly, we're talking about something that goes well beyond just this group of people as it's currently defined. So that's an important issue to think about.
REHMSo, Suzanne, tell me what you see as the weight of the arguments on both sides?
GAMBOAYou know, what really strikes me about this is that these children, these young people and young adults came here when they were three and four years old. And, now, we're talking about people being 30 and 35. So, to me, when I look at this, whether I can see arguments on both sides, the one thing that really stands out is that this is a real example of policy failure, that a person could grow up here from four to 30 years old, 35 years old, and we're still trying to figure out what to do about them. You know, it seems like people elect lawmakers to be problem solvers. They don't elect them to do -- leave these people here so that at 35, we're suddenly trying to figure out how to -- what to do about someone who speaks English and...
REHMAnd what is the latest on what Harry Reid is planning to do?
GAMBOAWell, he filed last night for what's a procedural motion called cloture, and that basically, in a couple of days -- probably by Wednesday -- would move the bill toward what we call a test vote. And that's a vote to see if it can go forward to actually get to a vote on whether or not to approve it. The uphill thing is to get 60 votes.
REHMSuzanne Gamboa, she is an immigration reporter for the Associated Press. We are going to open the phones shortly. Join us, 800-433-8850.
REHMAnd, as you can imagine, we already have lots of pro and con comments from you, our listeners. Here's one from Steven, who says, "If one of the facets of the DREAM Act is two years of college or military school, how will the college be paid for? Tax dollars should not be used to send illegal aliens to college. If they are, those who fall under the DREAM Act would have it better than those, such as myself, who had to pay college on their own." Steven.
CAMAROTAYou know, the caller makes a -- or the -- I should say the e-mailer makes a very good point. The expectation is about 90 percent of the DREAM Act recipients -- well, it's 10 state schools, and state schools are heavily subsidized by taxpayers. So, yes, the caller is right. We estimate that if you assume mostly at community colleges and some at state universities, you're looking at about as taxpayers' subsidy of about $6 billion per year for roughly one million students who would attend these public institutions. Also, the students are eligible for things like student loans, though it does not appear that they're going to be eligible -- though there's some debate about this -- for, like, Pell grant. So, yes, the caller is right. This will come, at least initially, at taxpayer expenses, which...
REHMWhat about that, Suzanne?
GAMBOAYou know, there's a lot of people who -- when they look at immigration, they look at this cost and that cost. And it's really hard, as a journalist, to try to figure out what the real cost is because for every cost, you have a -- an asset. So taxpayer expenses, their parents -- like in -- the State of Texas is one state that is a sales tax state. If their parents are living there, and they're buying goods, they're paying sales taxes, so that does help the state. But then there's a cost to sending them to the university. So it's always -- as a journalist, it is very hard to take a -- to see which -- what the future is in terms of how much they cost the taxpayer.
KELLEYSure. I mean, look, these are, as I read today, ambitious human beings who aren't just mouths, but they're hands and brains. And so the study on the other side by the UCLA shows that earnings by these kids is going to generate between $1.4 and $3.6 trillion in additional taxes being paid over their lifetime. So they're not just takers, but they're givers. And let's remember, these are kids who we're not going to deport, we're not going to throw $25 billion to get them out of the U.S.
KELLEYSo better that they on their own nickel because they're not eligible for Pell grants. They're not eligible for any means-tested benefits. They're not eligible for food stamps, for Medicaid. They don't get access under the new health care law. Better on their own nickel, that they either go to college or they serve in our military and defend this country.
REHMAll right. Here are two opposing perspectives. One says, "Despite the fact that these young people are in this situation through no fault of their own, they need to suffer for what their parents did. This is a result of an illegal act." On the other hand, from Mireau (sp?), here's an e-mail which says, "As much as I'm against amnesty and for the deportation of illegal aliens, I support the DREAM Act. Youngsters didn't do anything wrong." There you have it in a nutshell, Steven.
CAMAROTANo. And I think both callers have an important sentiment here. I mean, the other group -- obviously, the parents are the ones who committed the crime. They're the ones who are immediately guilty of the bad act, but children often pay the penalty for their parents. Now, there is another group, though. We probably could have passed some kind of scaled-down DREAM Act, but the advocacy groups wanted something big. They wanted to cover all 10 million. And they wanted to use these kids as props, basically, as the mediagenic wedge to get a much larger amnesty. So they didn't push it all year. They had two years they could have done it. Now they're pushing this last thing as kind of a booby prize, but, the fact is, something could have been done earlier. Butt the groups didn't want it 'cause they wanted all 10 or 12 million.
REHMA booby prize, Angie?
KELLEYYeah, wow. It's interesting, Monday morning quarterbacking, and these kids are -- I mean, look, these kids are as American as my kids. They have been here for years. They speak the language. They don't know their home country. They are going to be given the chance if they follow the rules and remain on the straight and narrow to become contributing, productive, eventually legal residents, eventually citizens.
REHMAll right. And now I'd like to ask you all to put on your headphones because we're going to hear from a young woman, Lucy Martinez. She's a college sophomore in Texas who is on a hunger strike to gain support for the DREAM Act. She arrived in Washington Sunday and hopes to meet with her senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison. She's on a hunger strike to persuade Sen. Hutchison to support the DREAM Act. Good morning to you, Lucy.
MS. LUCY MARTINEZGood morning, Diane.
REHMFirst of all, tell me how you are after 28 days on a hunger strike? What have you been ingesting?
MARTINEZThis is my 28th day on the -- on my hunger strike for the DREAM Act, and I can no longer walk. I do see the effects that it's taken on my physical health, and, yesterday, I had to go to the clinic to get some exams. I haven't gotten my results back, but it is affecting me really bad, physically. So, hopefully, Sen. Hutchison will support the DREAM Act soon so that I will be able to eat and, you know, get back on my feet.
REHMOh, what are you taking? You're taking water and apple juice, as I understand?
MARTINEZYes. I take water and then apple juice whenever my sugar gets low.
REHMI see. And suppose Sen. Hutchison does not see you, then what?
MARTINEZI will keep pushing for other senators to support the DREAM Act. Hopefully, she will see me because I know she's a very compassionate senator, and she's -- she worries a lot about our health. So, hopefully, she will meet with me and hear my story and see what I have to say, and maybe she will support the DREAM Act.
REHMTell us about yourself and how you came to this country.
MARTINEZRight. I came at the age of six. I came with my mother, a single mother and me. We came to Dallas, Texas, and I was raised here -- I mean, raised there. I went to a really good elementary school. I was always in the talented and gifted program. I went to Magnet School, which is also for talented and gifted kids throughout middle school and high school, a High School for Health Professions, and now I'm in college in Texas. I go to the University of San Antonio, and I am a Women's Studies major wanting to contribute back to our country.
REHMNow, who is paying your part of the tuition at the University of Texas?
MARTINEZMy mother is paying for most of my tuition at the University of Texas. I don't get to qualify for any sort of grants or federal aid, so my mother pays for my college.
REHMWhat does your mother do?
MARTINEZShe is a construction worker.
REHMAnd does she pay taxes here in this country?
MARTINEZYes, she does.
REHMShe came here illegally to the U.S. Tell us why.
MARTINEZShe came here to give me a better life because in Mexico, there's a lot of sexism for women. And, you know, she came here wanting me to do better for myself, get educated. And, you know, she knows that I work hard, so she supports the DREAM Act. And she supported me throughout all of this because she knows that she -- I have sacrificed myself through school and that I deserve to be happy and I deserve, you know, an opportunity.
REHMCould she not have stayed in Mexico and found a job and helped put you through school there?
MARTINEZI believe not because, I mean, I wouldn't be here if she didn't need me to have a better life. Or if she would have had opportunities, I wouldn't be here. And this is a land built on immigration. This is a land built on opportunity. And the DREAM Act would allow us to pursue our dreams and stop living in fear. Like, if the DREAM Act were to pass, I was telling someone that it will allow 2.1 million students to finally be able to breathe...
MARTINEZ...because right now we live not knowing what's going to happen, not knowing what our futures are going to lead up to.
REHMAnd, Lucy, tell me what happens if, in fact, the DREAM Act does not pass. What happens to you?
MARTINEZIf the DREAM Act does not pass, I have no future, and I have nothing. Right now, all that I have is my education. And if the DREAM Act were not to pass, I wouldn't be able to do anything with my life. I wouldn't be able to pursue a career or anything. And I believe that I have a lot of potential, as well as the other students who would qualify for the DREAM Act do. And if the DREAM Act were to pass, it would allow us to pursue our dreams and contribute back to this country and to the economy.
REHMSteven, I wonder what your thoughts are about Lucy's story.
CAMAROTAI think it's very compelling. And I think everyone should feel a certain amount of humanitarian concern for her, and I think we might be able to make allowance. Now, remember, we do have something built into the law now where you take your case before an immigration judge. Thousands of people every year have their deportations stopped, in effect, and they get a green card. So we do have an idea like this already built into our law, so that's one point. But the other point is that, if you think that the DREAM Act is a good idea -- and I think that the expanse of nature of it is a mistake, but I do think a narrowly focused one could make sense. There are certain other common sense things you'd have to do.
CAMAROTAYou wouldn't want to, for example, encourage more illegal immigration with people hoping, hey, you know, I'll get the next amnesty for my kids. So you'd have to have some enforcement. This bill has no enforcement in it at all. You'd have to exclude the parents from benefiting, again, because otherwise, you'll encourage illegal immigration. Also, you'd have to assist those local schools that are going to have to educate all these individuals, you know, at in-state tuition costs and things like that. This kind of slapdash thing done with just no hearings, and it didn't go through committee like it normally would and it's done just at the last second is what you would expect -- a very ill-conceived, you know, quickly put together thing.
REHMAngie, the green card issue. First, talk about that.
KELLEYSure. Green cards aren't going to be in these kids' future any time soon. They're put in a 10-year conditional status, and it's going to be 13 years before their parents or their siblings could possibly be petitioned for. These kids don't have any form of relief. The first comment by Steve, that there's thousands of people who, you know, if she just applied, she could get a green card, is an extraordinarily limited form of relief, and it is only for people who have a U.S. citizen or legal resident family member. I don't believe that that's the case for Lucy. Otherwise, she wouldn't be in this situation.
REHMLucy, have you ever tried to get a green card?
MARTINEZYes. We've been in line for lots and lots of years and nothing has happened, which is why I think the DREAM Act would be good for all of these students to be able to pursue their dreams. And I was going to say that the DREAM Act requires a lot of responsibility and accountability of young people to adjust their status. And you have to fulfill a lot of requirements in order to qualify, so, it's, in no way, a form of amnesty.
KELLEYYeah, she's absolutely right, very well-versed in the law, which is -- as I said, has been around for 10 years. It's always been a bipartisan bill. It was introduced by Orrin Hatch, who's bipartisan. And it's really tough, Diane. It requires that these kids show good moral character from the date that they enter the U.S. and throughout the process. Those strict deportation rules that we have in place for people who commit crimes or crimes of moral turpitude, they're in place. They wouldn't qualify.
REHMAngela Kelley, she is vice president for immigration policy and advocacy at the Center for American Progress. I want to wish you all success, Lucy, in your efforts to see a member of Congress and present your case. And, please, take care of your health.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're going to open the phones now, 800-433-8850. First to Traverse City, Mich. Good morning, Dean.
DEANGood morning. How are you?
REHMFine. Thank you, sir. Go right ahead.
DEANOkay. Your panel here is very interesting. I'm going to make a statement, but I want them each to define one thing for me since we are a country of laws. Would you define the difference between legal and illegal, because that's the question? I have seen enough in my lifetime to know that you have to have control over your borders. It should be quite obvious, on the Mexican border, that we have problems. We have problems within our inner cities. I have dealt with people.
DEANThey do not want to speak English. They don't speak English. And they will have someone who will do the translating or they will get to do -- to use the English language. We have MS-13 on -- it's all over the country -- one of the most dangerous groups of gangs that got in this country illegally.
REHMAll right, sir. I'm going to do as you ask and get each of our guests to define illegal. Angie.
KELLEYAn illegal immigrant is a person who is here without status. And the laws around immigration are outdated and, frankly, don't provide avenues for people to get status.
GAMBOAA lot of what Angie said, but it's interesting because you also -- an illegal immigrant, you also have to consider the people who do come here legally, but they just overstay their tourist visas. They overstay their -- whatever visa that brought them here.
CAMAROTAYeah, it's a person who's in the United States illegally. We think about two-thirds are people who snuck across the border, about one-third are the visa overstayers. I mean, obviously, we have the most generous immigration system in the world. We let 10 million people settle in the United States permanently each decade, but those individuals either didn't want to wait or they didn't qualify.
REHMAll right. To John in Tallahassee, Fla. Good morning. You're on the air.
JOHNHey. Well, I feel like a lot of callers, that this effort is really just an attempt to ram through a poor man's version of the amnesty, that the newly-elected Congress is trying to beat the -- they're trying to beat the newly-elected Congress from having a chance to be seated and represent the voters now. And it really goes in the opposite direction of recent attempts to reverse the automatic citizenship that is given to people who are born here. Instead of taking that away, they're going to be expanding it in the other direction and saying, well, you don't even have to be born here. You could just be brought across the border, and we're going to start giving you citizenship.
REHMIs that part of the law being looked at, that is, if you were born here, you're automatically entitled to citizenship? That's not part of the DREAM ACT.
REHMBut that is certainly under people's glasses.
KELLEYYes. People are looking at this -- the issue of birthright citizenship. It's a complex issue, Diane, and really does deserve a much longer discussion. It is part of the 14th Amendment. It is, you know, the basis, frankly, at which -- if you are born in this country, you are an American. We are not a country club. You don't have to apply to belong. And I think it has been what has kept us a unified nation, frankly. And it's an important conversation that I think Congress is going to have at a different time.
REHMWould you like to see that 14th Amendment changed, Steven?
CAMAROTAProbably not. I think that -- especially if we're not going to be enforcing our immigration laws. Right now, we think about one out of every 10 children born in the United States has an illegal immigrant mother. Yes, it attracts new illegal immigration. But at this point, if we're not going to enforce our law, then we might as well not add to the problem by letting so many individuals be born here.
REHMSteven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies. Short break and right back.
REHMWelcome back. We'll go right back to the phones. We have many e-mails similar to this one from Brimstone in Tampa, Fla., who says, "By allowing these foreigners to stay in America, we are depriving foreign countries of some of their best and brightest citizens. These foreigners should take the money and education they've accumulated in America and return home to improve their own native societies. That way, in the long run, people from these countries may not want to illegally come to America." Suzanne.
GAMBOAWell, that's an interesting point. I just -- most of these kids, though, they've lived here a very long time. And I'm not even sure if all of them speak Spanish -- I've seen some of them do it. And I haven't really seen a breakdown on how many of these DREAM Act kids are actually in college and versus other ones who, maybe, will never make it to college. What -- you know, not everyone goes to college, even in our U.S. citizen children. So we don't really -- I don't really know what the breakdown is on this procedure.
REHMSo what would that mean? If you don't go to college, you've got to serve two years in the Armed Forces? Angie.
KELLEYThat's right. You have to meet these requirements.
KELLEYExactly. Remember, these kids will have gone forward. They will have applied. They're in a conditional status, and they have to meet those requirements in order to remove the condition. And so it is in their interest to fulfill what is required of them. Otherwise, DHS has all their information, quite frankly. So it's -- this is not an easy path for them. I think to your caller or to the e-mail's question, you know, which is, frankly, a very smart, global one, which looks at, you know, why are people leaving in the first place?
KELLEYThe opportunities in their home countries are limited. Absolutely. But, you know, frankly, if we're making the investment in these kids -- and we have -- it seems to me that I'd like them to stay here. And, as I said, you know, no disrespect to McDonald's, but I'd rather them working at Microsoft and take the entrepreneurship and the ambition that they have and that we heard in the young person's voice who you had on earlier. And let's that -- let's use that to our betterment right now.
REHMAll right. To Michelle in Dallas, Texas. Good morning. You're on the air.
MICHELLEHi, good morning. I just have a couple of points to make about using immigration to -- or I'm in favor of the DREAM Act, mainly because not giving people status will not educate people about immigration laws. This is not going to tell people, oh, don't come here because you're not going to be able to get legal. The United States should put some sort of educational programs in the consulates and at the border, and that will get people educated or it might be able to get people educated as far as what being illegal in this country means. The second comment I have to make is that I don't know why I haven't heard this type of argument before. But keeping these people here illegally just encourages criminal behavior, encourages people to go into fake marriages, go into fake documents. And because a lot of times they have no hope...
REHMWhat about that, Steven, that allowing them to at least earn a kind of citizenship would take a certain number out of criminal behavior?
CAMAROTAWell, I think that sometimes -- well, let me put it this way. If you decide that what you want to do with illegal immigration is reward some fraction who violated the law, I think you're going to have to deal with that reality. You're going to have to enforce the law to encourage more people from coming. And that's one of the central debates, and I think a lot of your e-mailers have talked about that. We are a nation of immigrants. We're also a nation of laws.
CAMAROTAIf you have any kind of amnesty -- and let's face it, this is an amnesty -- all amnesties have certain requirements. And this one has some, just like the amnesty for illegal immigration back in '86. But the bottom line is if we move forward with this amnesty, up to 2 million people could conceivably benefit -- the number's likely to be smaller. If we do that, then we are going to encourage more illegal immigration. We know it's happened in the past, so we have to deal with that question. And we could -- we could, if we wanted to -- we could actually enforce the law.
KELLEYYeah, I couldn't disagree more. This law is so limited in terms of who it covers, and we've discussed that already. You have to have been in the U.S. for five years. So there's not a single Mexican parent who's going to look at this law and say, if I bring my kid over, it's going to help me. It doesn't...
REHMOn the other hand, there's another question -- I should have asked Lucy about this. Should her situation become public, is her mother at risk of deportation because she is still here illegally?
KELLEYWell, her mother is at risk of deportation because, exactly what you said...
KELLEY...she's here illegally. She could get pulled over for a, you know, broken taillight, and there she goes. She'll be detained and swiftly deported. By applying for the DREAM Act, it is the application of the student, the young person. So it...
REHMBut doesn't that point in the direction of her mother?
KELLEYIt -- the confidentiality provisions, in order to get the program to work, you have to ensure that the parents are now not walking around with a big target on their back because the child has applied. So there are limited confidentiality provisions...
KELLEY...just around the application itself. But, again, if Lucy's mom runs afoul of the law, if Lucy's employer gets busted and she's found on the worksite, if, in any way at all, Lucy's mother becomes known to the government outside of the application by her daughter, she's, of course, going to be on her way to deportation.
CAMAROTAYeah, I think one of the many criticisms people make of the way the act is constructed deals with this. If you provide fraudulent information -- or any information you provide to the government on a DREAM Act application, that can never be used against you to either locate you or proceed with deportation. So if you lie to the government and they find that out, they can't use that information. If they want to look for you, your address that you gave them, they can never use it. If they do pick you up, you can challenge that deportation on the grounds that you provided that information in a DREAM Act application, and, thus, it's tainted. They can't use that evidence against you. That's another example of what happens when you rush something like this through. You get these kind of crazy provisions where you get a free pass for fraud and things like that.
REHMAll right. To Boone, N.C. Good morning, Ben. Ben, are you there? I guess you're not. Let's go to...
REHM...Silver Spring, Md. Congeet,(sp?) good morning.
CONGEETGood morning, Diane.
REHMGood morning to you. Go right ahead, please.
CONGEETI'm a retired Air Force, served in the United States, and my adopted children, who came right before Sept. 11, has been denied. And my children has been under my roof, going to school -- I'm a single mother. And I...
REHMCongeet, that's very interesting. What is the status for an adopted child, Angie?
KELLEYYeah, the laws are complex...
REHMYeah, I could imagine.
KELLEY...as we've figured out in this last hour. So I'm sympathetic to Congeet and I would urge her to look at the American Immigration Lawyers Association website. Maybe she could get a referral for an attorney. It could be that the children, if they are over a certain age -- I think it's 16 -- wouldn't qualify for immigration benefits as an adopted child. That could have been a problem. So many variables, Diane, so I urge her to seek...
KELLEY...legal council and certainly not give up.
REHMGood luck to you, Congeet. To Gordon in Lubbock, Texas. Good morning to you.
GORDONI was calling sort of about general immigration policy. I -- I'm -- you know, I support immigration, and, obviously, America as a country founded on immigration. But it seems to me whenever immigration is brought up, there's an amnesty involved. And I can't see how you can have a cohesive immigration policy where every time we talk about immigration, there's amnesty for the people already in the country. You can't reward illegal behavior. And, you know, there are legal methods to get in there, albeit limited. But this -- you know, this Act seems very well-intended and very good, and I think there are a lot of reasons to do it. But how can we always talk about immigration, always talk about amnesty? That's not really a cohesive policy.
REHMIt's a fair of point, Angie.
KELLEYYeah, it sure is. And I would love to stop talking about illegal immigration as well. But here's the reality, is that we've got nearly 11 million people who are here without papers, so we have to deal with them. We can try to deport them, but if we round them all up, that's going to cost us nearly $300 billion over the next five years. Or we can get them on the right side of the law by requiring them to register and to pay taxes and to learn English and to be sure that they don't have a criminal record. That's the broader comprehensive debate that, unfortunately, we're not going to get to.
GAMBOANow, I think the guy makes a very good point because -- and it goes back to this whole idea of being a problem, bring problem solver, the lawmakers. I mean, some of the problems are really the immigration laws themselves. They're outdated. They just haven't been, you know, written correctly. There's all kinds of exceptions, et cetera. And, you know, yes, you -- he's right. There have been amnesties but -- you know, to Steve's point earlier, on the one hand, he's critical because the advocates want comprehensive. But on the other hand, he also says, if we're going to do DREAM Act, we have to do enforcement. And I think this is what happens when you get into immigration. You have something like the DREAM Act. You pull one thread, and then you have to start thinking about, but wait a minute, they're going to be able to sponsor their family.
REHMOf course, mm hmm.
GAMBOAYou know, it just all fits together.
REHMAnd what about the Latino vote?
GAMBOAYeah, and, obviously, there's a lot of politics going through this. And I think this is one of the reasons why you don't see these tough policy decisions being made. You know, the Latino vote was very important for Reid in Nevada. It was important in California. You see Reid -- it's going to be very important in 2012. Not all of the DREAM Act kids are Hispanic. There are a number of Asians students who would benefit, but it's a very critical base.
REHMHow likely is it that this is going to get through in a lame duck session?
GAMBOAI think most people are on the -- there's a lot of hope among people who support it. I think a lot of people are saying it's an uphill battle.
REHMWhat do you think, Steve?
CAMAROTAYeah, I think that there's a general sense that this is something the new Congress should deal with. This is a slapdash thing kind of shoved together quickly. It seems unlikely that they have the votes in the Senate, but anything is possible.
REHMWhat do you think, Angie?
KELLEYI think if they could vote anonymously, it would pass overwhelmingly in both chambers. But I think that there's a tendency to want to run and hide from this issue rather than lean into it and solve problems, to Suzanne's point.
REHMLet's go to New Haven, Conn. Good morning, Jen.
JENGood morning, Diane. I've been listening to this debate back and forth. And as a single mom who's self-insured and pays health care and a daughter of immigrant parents who are legal citizens, who came to this country and got jobs and sent us to college with their own money and didn't depend on other people. And as I get ready to send my own children to college, I will not have help. So why should someone else get help while I have to get a job and pay for it myself for my own children, or they have to get jobs to supplement or go to school during -- at night while they work during the day to pay?
REHMIt's an interesting point that, I think, many people can identify with and can empathize with.
KELLEYI agree. And, in fact, that's why the written -- the law is written as narrowly as it is. So let's review. These are young people who will not be eligible for federal grants. They will not be eligible for Pell Grants. They will not...
REHMBut when you say young, they could be as old as 29.
KELLEYThey could be. That's absolutely right. But they have to have come here when they were 15 years old or younger.
REHMRight. Or younger.
KELLEYRight. So they did come as children, and they will not get any federal benefit. They will have to stay on the straight and narrow, keep their noses clean and show no criminal record, serve in our military or go to college. And I would rather that we make these guys pay on their own nickel and then be much more productive taxpaying residents of the U.S. than be living underground.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Suzanne, what about White House support for this measure? How much is there?
GAMBOAWell, it's -- in this lame duck session, they're coming out pretty strong. I mean, it was there before, but they are holding conference calls. I think this morning there was one with a Pentagon official talking about its benefits, or as what they see as benefits, to the White House, the -- President Obama, definitely. And again, the Latino vote is important in the 2012 election, so it would -- it's a wise political move on his part.
REHMBut does the White House also see it as important to the military?
GAMBOAThey have. You know, I talked with the secretary -- former Army Secretary Caldera, and he -- Louis Caldera -- and he was very adamant about how this would really help, particularly in recruiting Hispanics. And he talked about the need for Hispanics in the officers' ranks and that many of these DREAM Act kids are officer material and that -- you know, that the population of Hispanics is -- the young population is the fastest and largest population, I believe, of young people. And they need to be able to tap into that. You have problems in this country of dropout rates, high dropout rates among young Hispanics.
GAMBOAThe military option -- if they can get a GED -- helps get these kids, you know, into the military doing -- maybe if they're not going to college, going into the military. So there is some very strong support. Not everyone is behind it. There have been some people who spoke out against it. But even opponents such as Lindsey Graham and McCain in 2006 held a hearing, a field hearing in Miami that they put together -- and I forget the general's name -- but they had several military people, and it just revolved completely around the benefits of DREAM Act to the military.
KELLEYYeah, interestingly, even the strategic plan for the Department of Defense urges passage of the DREAM Act so that we have a ready, voluntary, you know, military. As has Secretary Gates, as has Colin Powell and both undersecretaries for military readiness under President Bush supported the DREAM Act.
CAMAROTAYou know, I mean, politically, those people who are tied to supporters of the DREAM Act, who are also associated with the military, support it. President Bush supported it, and those who worked for him supported it. President Obama supports it, and those who are tied to the military who support for President Obama generally support it. But we're talking about a kind of irrelevancy to the U.S. military.
REHMNo, no, no, no, no. Wait a minute.
CAMAROTAWell, let me tell you the numbers, so you can at least say. We're looking at maybe 1 or 2 percent of meeting our military recruiting needs over the next 10 years, so the DREAM Act is very small. The Migration Policy Institute only estimates over a 15-year period maybe 50,000 people would go that route.
GAMBOAYou know, it's an interesting point, and I haven't seen the Migration Policy Institute's numbers. But, you know, if you look at it in numbers, again, I have to then consider Louis Caldera's argument, which he said, having these officers in the -- these Hispanics, which most of the DREAM Act kids are, in the ranks might help pull in other Hispanics. I don't -- you know.
REHMSuzanne Gamboa, she is immigration reporter for the Associated Press. Angela Kelley of the Center for American Progress. Steve Camarota, he's at the Center for Immigration Studies. No matter where you come out on this issue, you ought to be in touch with your member of Congress. It's an important issue, one likely to come up tomorrow in Congress. Thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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