"What happens to a dream deferred?" asked Langston Hughes in his famous poem. He theorized that it could "sag like a heavy load" or "explode." The immigration issue in American politics seems to be a hot-button one. Many people feel strongly that illegal immigrants should be given a chance to come out of the shadows and pursue their dreams. Others have a strong "Americans First" policy and oppose all forms of amnesty, instead focusing on deportation of illegal immigrants and border security.
This post is the first in the "Why I'm Not Voting for Mitt Romney" series (see the ground rules here in my original post). I'd like to talk about why I disagree with Governor Romney on immigration. Governor Romney opposes the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (aka the DREAM Act). You can read about the details of this proposed bill here. This bill would allow children, whose parents brought them here illegally when they were children, to attend college or join the military in the U.S. and put them on a path towards citizenship. An aside here, I think for once, a cause I support has hit upon an apt name for this bill that makes it difficult for opponents to speak against it. Who wants to crush dreams? Yet, Governor Romney opposes the DREAM Act, saying it would increase illegal immigration and be an amnesty.
First of all, the DREAM Act would apply only to those illegal immigrants who have been in the U.S. for five years already. I don't see how we can encourage illegal immigration when these people are already here. Secondly, as Mormons, "[w]e believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression" (Articles of Faith 2). Not supporting the DREAM Act seems to be punishing children for the sins of their parents. The DREAM Act applies to illegal immigrants who were brought here when they were minors. Do you really think that a three year old is culpable for the transgressions of his or her parents?
Some of the stated reasons that people have opposed this bill include that it will require states to grant instate tuition to illegal aliens or require taxpayers to fund the education of these students. However, the latest versions of the bill have not included provisions regarding in-state tuition. Also, the program would stipulate that these students would not be eligible for federal grants.
More broadly, opposition to "amnesty" for illegal immigrants seems wrong to me. Do you really think these people are just going to go away? Many of them have lived in the United States for years, and see it as their home. They are not simply going to leave. People who oppose bills to grant illegal immigrants citizenship seem to think that these people had some kind of choice between coming here legally and coming here illegally. The simple truth is that many more people want to come to America than are allowed to come legally by the current immigration system. If you were living in poverty with no opportunities for education or jobs, wouldn't you want to come to America, even if it meant breaking the law? It's a dangerous thing to do, but wouldn't you risk it for your family?
We Mormons believe in obeying the law. However, giving these people a chance at citizenship does not have to mean that they are not punished for breaking the law - they should pay a fine, pay back taxes, and get in line behind those who followed the rules. I believe that the punishment should be commensurate with the crime, and exporting people to a life of crushing poverty and zero opportunity seems a heavy price to pay for crossing a man-made border to improve one's life.
Increasing border security, while it may seem like a good goal, is somewhat of a red herring. We will never be able to fully secure our borders from anyone - there's just too much territory to cover, and too many ways that people can come here legally and stay illegally.
To be fair, Governor Romney does support increasingly legal immigration, which is laudable. However, I just can't support his position on the DREAM Act. This is a chance for innocent people to become educated or support our armed forces. For this among many reasons, Governor Romney will not be getting my support this November.