House Judiciary Chair Bod Goodlatte and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, both from Virginia, are drafting legislation to enact something similar to the DREAM Act, which would allow illegal immigrants who entered the country as children to become citizens. It is a kind of half-step on the path to citizenship for the whole illegal immigrant population.
Although the details of the Cantor/Goodlatte legislation are unknown, the DREAM Act generally would allow illegal immigrants who entered the country as children to become citizens if they completed high school, two years of higher ed or served in the military. It is estimated that 3 million of the 11-12 million illegal immigrants would qualify.
The Senate bill has its own mini-DREAM act language, providing a fast-track for DREAMers to become citizens in just 5 years. These immigrants can also apply to have family members placed on the expedited citizenship track. In keeping with the general tenor of the Senate bill, the legislation also allows the feds to waive some of the DREAM requirements.
The principal backer of the DREAM Act is Democrat Rep. Louis Guttierez, who offered it as an initial, small step after the failure of comprehensive immigration reform. Knowing that a general amnesty bill can’t pass the House, Cantor is apparently hopeful that resurrecting the DREAM Act will let the Leadership have it both ways. Provide a little bit of legalization now, with the promise of more in the future after border and enforcement provisions are strengthened.
The danger for conservatives, however, is what happens to the proposal when the House and Senate enter formal negotiations over a conference report. The House could pass dozens of individual bills but it will all culminate in one massive conference report ironed out by negotiators selected by Senate and House Leadership.
Once the House concedes that some illegal immigrants deserve amnesty before border and enforcement provisions kick-in, it will be hard to keep that from expanding to all illegal immigrants.
The GOP establishment in DC is desperate to pass something that can be called immigration reform. Rather than accept the full consequences of its loss in 2012, the party has convinced itself that the immigration issue is to blame. Moreover, they are convinced that a failure to act on the issue will doom them to political purgatory in the future.
This view isn’t just bad political analysis, its bad math. Even if Mitt Romney had won 70% of the Hispanic vote last November, Barack Obama would still have been reelected.
Our immigration system is in desperate need of reform. Chuck Schumer and the White House should not be the architects of that reform, however. Future political historians will be forever baffled that Republicans like Eric Cantor put more stock in the political advice of Democrats, the media and the folks at the Aspen Ideas Summit than their own voting base.