It looks as if the Senate vote on the "DREAM Act" partial immigration amnesty will actually happen on Saturday, though it also wouldn't surprise me if Majority Leader Reid puts it off yet again or cancels it at the last minute.
I'm anti-DREAM. The key point to make, at this moment, is that nobody who is reasonable in this debate wants to deport the appealing would-be beneficiaries of the proposed law: those brought across the border when they were young, who've known no other country—the high-school valedictorians, the law student who calls himself "a typical American kid who grew up in Brooklyn and roots for the Yankees," and "dreams of becoming a J.A.G. officer to defend the country I love." The DREAM "kids" like these that you read about are clearly carefully selected for their appeal, and they lay it on a bit thick, but I assume their stories are real and there are tens of thousands of other stories sufficiently like theirs.
Many DREAM opponents also want take care of these "kids" (or former kids) by making them legal. Mark Krikorian, the anti-amnesty advocate whom I cite most, wants to take care of them. Even Roy Beck of Numbers USA seems to want to take care of them. But there is a way to do it that minimizes the unwanted long-term side effects of encouraging future illegal immigration from parents now living in other countries (who'd understandably like their kids to be made Americans, too), which would set the stage for another amnesty, which in turn would build up a constituency for the next amnesty in a cycle that doesn't seem to have any end point.
And there is a way to do it that maximizes those long-term effects, by maximizing the number of immigrants who would be covered by DREAM, by offering no effective way to combat fraudulent applications, by creating rules so complex they'll collapse of the own weight, by passing the bill in a wave of ethnic passion and recklessly including no additional enforcement measures. That's the bill they'll vote on Saturday.
You've heard of "comprehensive" reform? DREAM is non-comprehensive reform. It doesn't even have the basic enforcement provisions—employer sanctions and fancy new ID cards—that were part of the earlier, failed "comprehensive" bargain, which wasn't a very good bargain (in part because nobody was sure the enforcement schemes wouldn't be immediately undermined by lawsuits from the same organizations who supported "comprehensive" reform). DREAM is all amnesty, no prevention. Maybe that's because its backers care about amnesty but not prevention.
That's the not-quite-submerged divide in the immigration debate. Crudely put, there are really three positions, not two:
1) Those who want legalization above all and don't really care if the result, as with the 1986 amnesty, is another wave of illegals. They tend to think undocumented workers help more than they hurt, so what's so terrible about another wave or two?
2) Those who don't realy want to deport illegals who are here minding their own business, but want to make sure there's not going to be another wave. They worry, most basically, that after enough of these waves the wages of unskilled American workers who have to compete with the newcomers will be terminally eroded. This is the "enforcement first" position. Illegals will have to live a few more years in the shadows—the status quo—until the borders are secure enough to prevent a repeat cycle.
3) Those who actually want to deport those here illegally, the faster the better. They tend to see Position 2 as a wimpy acceptance of de facto "amnesty" for 11 million people who shouldn't be here.
A lot of effort in the "reform" movement goes into suppressing Position 2, pretending that there are only two alternatives: legalization or deportation, that there's no middle ground. DREAM looks like a Position 1 bill. The irony—well, it's not really an irony, but the truth—is that if those pushing for DREAM had been willing to swallow a good dose of straight enforcement a few years back, when President George W. Bush was pushing for legalization, they would be in a position to easily claim a DREAM amnesty and more by now.
That they didn't take this obvious route only reinforces the suspicions of those in Position 2 that the leaders of the DREAM movement—whether they are motivated by free-market open- borders economics or non-economistic ethnic (i.e., Latino) solidarity—don't really care about enforcement and don't want to prevent the next wave.
If DREAM fails today, then some liberal Republican can join with Democrats to hold hearings on what a Position 2 DREAM Act would look like. Krikorian has already sketched out some ideas. That would be a valuable negotiation to have. To get it, the DREAM Act bum's rush needs to fail this weekend. 2:48 a.m.