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Some members of Congress are threatening to block government funding unless Congress provides amnesty to so-called Dreamers — the illegal aliens included in President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which President Donald Trump is ending.
Responsible members of Congress should not give in.
Such an effort would be fundamentally flawed and would only encourage even more illegal immigration — just as the 1986 amnesty in the Immigration Reform and Control Act did.
Democrats portray the DACA program as only benefittng those who were a few years old when they came to the U.S. illegally, leaving them unable to speak their native language and ignorant of their countries’ cultural norms. Therefore, the reasoning goes, it would be a hardship to return them to the countries where they were born.
Obama himself gave this rationale when he said DACA beneficiaries were “brought to this country by their parents” as infants and face “deportation to a country that [they] know nothing about, with a language” they don’t even speak.
While this may be true of a small portion of the DACA population, it certainly is not true of all of the aliens who received administrative amnesty. In fact, illegal aliens were eligible as long as they came to the U.S. before their 16th birthday and were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012.
DACA also required that beneficiaries enroll in school, graduate from high school, obtain a GED certificate or receive an honorable discharge from the military; have no conviction for a felony, significant misdemeanor or three or more other misdemeanors; and not pose a threat to national security or public safety.
However, the Obama administration appeared to routinely waive the education (or its equivalent) requirement as long as the illegal alien was enrolled in some kind of program. Only 49 percent of DACA beneficiaries have a high school education — despite the fact that a majority of them are adults.
How thorough was Homeland Security vetting? In February 2017, after the arrest of a DACA beneficiary for gang membership, the Department of Homeland Security admitted that at least 1,500 DACA beneficiaries had their eligibility terminated “due to a criminal conviction, gang affiliation or a criminal conviction related to gang affiliation.”
By August 2017, that number had surged to 2,139.
In fact, based on documents obtained by Judicial Watch, it is apparent that the Obama administration used a “lean and light” system of background checks in which only a few, randomly selected DACA applicants were ever actually vetted.
Additionally, DACA only excluded individuals for convictions. Thus, even if a Homeland Security background investigation — which apparently was almost never done — produced substantial evidence that an illegal alien might have committed multiple crimes, the alien would still be eligible for DACA unless Homeland Security referred the violation to state or federal prosecutors and the alien was convicted.
The Center for Immigration Studies estimates that “perhaps 24 percent of the DACA-eligible population fall into the functionally illiterate category and another 46 percent have only ‘basic’ English ability.”
This is a far cry from the image of DACA beneficiaries as all children who don’t speak the language of — and know nothing about the culture of — their native countries.
In fact, it seems rather that a significant percentage of DACA beneficiaries may have serious limitations in their education, experience and English fluency that negatively affected their ability to function in American society.
Providing amnesty would simply attract even more illegal immigration and would not solve the myriad of enforcement problems we have along our borders and in the interior of the country. Congress should concentrate on giving the federal government (with the assistance and help of state and local governments) the resources to enforce existing immigration laws to reduce the illegal alien population in the U.S. and stem entry into the country.
Until those goals are accomplished, it is premature to even consider any DACA-type bill.
Hans von Spakovsky is a senior legal fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies and manager of the think tank’s Election Law Reform Initiative.