Jewish World Review Nov. 19, 2002 / 14 Kislev, 5763
With Republicans poised to take control of both house of Congress in January, a legislative quandary awaits them -- a bill called the "Dream Act," the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. Introduced by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch earlier this year, it would make it easier for states to offer in-state tuition rates at state colleges, and also would grant students lawful residency upon graduation from high school if they had lived in the country at least five years. (They could file for a conditional green card, and thus could legally drive and work.)
Why do conservatives like Hatch, and his House colleague Rep. Chris Cannon, support a bill that would reward illegality? Colorado's Rep. Tom Tancredo, a bulldog for enforcing our immigration laws, thinks it's a combination of politics (attracting Latino votes) and money (providing business-owners a constant source of cheap labor). Hatch insists that the undocumented students -- by some estimates as many 600,000 in our high schools-"are assimilated into American culture --- and grow up to be contributors to society."
That the majority of the illegal immigrant students want to work hard and better their lives is not in question. The problem is that for each slot an illegal immigrant takes at a state college or university, it is one less spot for American students or for immigrants who have followed immigration laws and procedures. (Illegals can also apply in the category of "international admissions.") And let's not forget, our new Homeland Security Department will have enough on its hands with 8 million illegals here, along with the 300,000 subject to deportation but on the loose.
For some outlandish reason, there is no specific federal prohibition against colleges and universities enrolling illegal immigrants. However, federal law places some restrictions on allowing such students to pay in-state tuition rates, and it prohibits them from receiving federal financial aid.
The pending Hatch-Cannon legislation will be a test for Republicans, who are ever-mindful of the growing influence Hispanics have in elections coast to coast. In the 2002 mid-term elections, many Republican candidates nationwide did better than expected among Hispanic voters. New York Governor George Pataki improved his support among Hispanic voters, chiefly due to his support for legalizing some illegals in the state. Governor Jeb Bush won a majority of the Latino vote, receiving strong support from Cuban-Americans.
Fearful of reprisals at the voting booth, the GOP has largely avoided taking on such these immigration-related issues. "When it comes to immigration, the president's approach is guided by compassion and fairness," said Sharon Castillo, an RNC spokesperson.
But isn't fairness supposed to be ensured by following the rule of law? President Bush's message on everything from fighting terror to corporate corruption is grounded in respecting the laws of the land. When people who set out to thwart our legal system are rewarded with benefits that are designated for law-abiding Americans and immigrants, why should we expect any would-be immigrants to go through the hassle of following our immigration laws?
Some states such as California, New York and Texas are already dangling carrots along the border. All passed bills allowing admission and in-state tuition for illegals. Several other states are considering similar measures.
Yet if there is a national trend toward bending the rules to allow greater access to education for illegals, Virginia's Republican Attorney General Jerry Kilgore wants no part of it. To the great consternation and outrage of groups like the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, he recently directed his state's public colleges not to enroll illegals. And get this-he also told the institutions to report illegals they discover on campus to federal authorities. (The horror!)
Kilgore is right. Since September 11th, all universities nationwide should
be doing everything they can to help the INS track foreign students, not
create problems by looking the other way when illegals attempt to take
advantage of benefits designated for those here lawfully. Yet our federal
government is on the verge of giving state universities the green light to
do just that with the so-called Dream Act. It is already a nightmare for
our understaffed, under-funded Border Patrol to enforce our borders, it
will only get worse with the beacon of more benefits for law-breakers.
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