Dreamers: Victims, Beneficiaries or Political Props?

Richard Kelsey | December 8, 2016 | 3:20pm EST
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DREAMers (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) and parents take an oath in a mock citizenship ceremony during a rally on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The political term, Dreamers, is a cleverly devised branding tool designed to exploit innocent children for the purpose of further destroying American immigration law.  What’s a Dreamer?  In immigration parlance, it is a foreign born child brought to the United States illegally by a parent or family member, who has been raised and is being schooled in the United States.  How, we are asked, is it right to punish an innocent child for the mistakes of their parents?  How, we are interrogated, do we justify making a child leave the only country he or she has ever known?  Children, their dreams, and their exploitation, are the primary weapons of the open borders’ lobby.  That same lobby has no regard for any American immigration law, and it sees borders as an artificial construct of oppression designed to deprive immigrants of a right to a better existence.  When one raises the law as a defense, we always hear first about the kids, the dreamers, the innocent victims.  Are they victims, beneficiaries or merely political props in a larger open borders agenda?

Americans are insanely compassionate and giving.  No country gives or contributes more to the world than the United States and her people.  We are obsessed with our children, and we have great empathy for the children of illegal immigrants.  This, the illegal immigrant lobby uses against us in a way we have never before seen in American culture.  When the advocates of dreamers insist that the law is cruel, heartless, or without mercy as applied to the children of illegal immigrants, they don’t merely play on our emotions, they ask us to do something that good law never permits.  They ask us to reward illegal behavior in a way that the crime always pays.  That, my friends, is at odds with every component of responsible American law.   In fact, if the penalty is a reward, then is the crime really a crime?  And, if the reward is so great, don’t we really incentivize more crime?  Welcome to the American immigration system, which is irretrievably broken.  I have a dream too, and that dream is that we return to the rule of law and in so doing create penalties that punish, rather than reward crime.

The illegal invasion of the United States by foreign nationals has been aided by two unique and equally incorrect changes in American law.  Dreamers seek to expand those unique legal weapons by adding a third.  To combat illegal immigration, we must not only stop the dreamers, but we must roll back the two components of American law that have fundamentally transformed the United States.  Under a suspect interpretation of the 14th Amendment in 1898, the Supreme Court then found that merely being born in the United States conveyed citizenship, even if one’s parents are not U.S. Citizens.  Referred to commonly as birthright citizenship, that concept, as applied, converts the crime of illegal entry into U.S. citizenship for the child if a mother then gives birth while here illegally.  That accepted faulty reading is made worse by the reality that the Court in that case never determined whether or not Wong Kim Ark’s parents were here legally.  It may or may not be sound policy to permit a non-citizen, legal resident’s child born here to claim citizenship.  It makes no sense of any kind to reward those who break our laws by entering illegally to then obtain citizenship for their children born here.  The country wrongly assumes that the Supreme court rewarded law breaking with citizenship.

The second legal fiction written into our laws came in 1982, when the Supreme Court held in Plyler v. Doe that state school systems could not “enforce” immigration law, and thus were not permitted to ask about the legal citizenship status of their children.  In those two decisions, we hung out a citizenship reward for those who enter illegally and have children, and we dangle an American education reward for those who enter illegally with foreign children they can now send to American schools.  It is not hard to understand, then, why America has a huge problem with illegal immigration.

It is this last group of kids, the foreign born children of illegal aliens who now argue, in essence, that once here and educated, it is wrong to remove them.  Thus, they seek to convert their contrived right to an American education into a right to naturalized citizenship.  They claim that to do otherwise would punish children who are not themselves at fault for the crimes of their parents.  This last action, we do every day in America.  We don’t permit criminals to keep their ill-gotten gains.  In fact, forfeiture of cash, cars, and property tied to illegal activity is common, and no one argues that the innocent kids should be able to keep the gains of illegal acts.  Yet, in immigration law, we reward citizenship, hand out an education, and now seek to naturalize those who broke our laws. 

The common arguments about compassion, decency, and the need to educate children are used to substitute emotion over thought.  No one wants to deny children an education; we only suggest that education happen in their country.  No one wants to prevent legal immigration to the country and subsequent citizenship for legal immigrants who respect our laws.  We just don’t want to give citizenship to those who jump our fences and best avoid detection.  If we undo the Plyler case, ironically, we don’t even have to address dreamers.  Dreamers are the step children of the ill-conceived Plyler decision.

America thrives on immigration.  We should want robust, legal, immigration.  However, immigration policy is for the benefit of Americans, not for the benefit of would-be immigrants.  Our immigration policy should be improved to streamline the process for legal immigration, but it should likewise be changed fundamentally to both eliminate the incentives for illegal immigration, and replace the rewards of criminality with punishments.  The best lesson we can give to would-be immigrants is to teach them that breaking our laws is a surefire way to never be rewarded with citizenship, legal status, or entry into our country.  Remarkably, we offer the exact opposite set of incentives.  When we move to change them, it is the open borders’ lobby that is emboldened by prior success, strengthened by large numbers of law breakers, and keenly aware that Americans’ capacity for compassion has replaced its mandate for law, order, and a sustainable public policy.

I am a dreamer too; I dream of a country where we reward lawful, productive, immigrants who have played by the rules to come to our country and be Americans.  And, my biggest dream is that we stop letting those who thwart our laws profit from it and use our decency against us.

Richard Kelsey is an attorney practicing with The Impresa Legal Group. A former Assistant Law School Dean and a former Virginia state court law clerk and commercial litigator, Kelsey was also the CEO of a technology company.  He has previously taught legal writing and pre-trial practice.  He is a regular commentator on legal and political issues in print, and on radio and TV.   His opinions are his own, and do not represent any institution or entity.


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