Monday, August 1, 2011

Illinois “DREAM Act” only a dream. Real reform needs to come at federal level

If the Associated Press is at all accurate (and I don’t have any reason to doubt they are this time), Illinois political officials will be able to dream on Monday that they are taking a serious step toward revising the immigration policies of this nation.
QUINN: Grabbing some national attention?

Monday is the day that Gov. Pat Quinn is supposed to sign into law a measure approved by the General Assembly this spring that was billed as a state version of the DREAM Act.

THE “REAL” DREAM Act is a federal proposal that would enable young people not born in this country but who have lived the bulk of their lives in the United States to gain a path to citizenship IF they complete college or serve in the military.

In short, it acknowledges that for these young people, their lack of citizenship is really a technical glitch – and that they truly are a part of this country and should be treated accordingly.

Of course, the conservative ideologues have their hang-ups about this issue (and have caused its repeated failure in Congress – most recently back in December) because they don’t want to have to treat people like people. They only seem to be happy when there’s a class of people in our society that they can look down upon.

My own thoughts about the federal DREAM Act proposals are that they would not be necessary if the U.S. government were to take on the larger (and necessary) issue of immigration reform. But DREAM Act backers say that this is a positive step while we wait for the day that the full-fledged reform is undertaken.

THAT KIND OF logic seems to be at work with this bill. For it seems states that have more progressive political structures are eager to pass something that they can call a DREAM Act. My guess is that they just want the political backing from the Latino segment of the electorate.

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a local DREAM Act bill into law just last week. Now, the Mighty Quinn seems eager to have his moment of national attention come Monday.

My problem with these state DREAM Acts is that I believe their use of the name is misleading.

Illinois’ DREAM Act bill will not, in any way, give anyone U.S. citizenship or give them a legitimate Visa or put them on any kind of path to citizenship. That is a point that only the federal government can address.

BUT WHILE THE federal DREAMers are trying to increase college enrollment, that is what this measure tries to do to.

What the Illinois DREAM Act bill says it that young people who are not U.S. citizens (or don’t have that valid Visa) who have lived the bulk of their lives in this state can qualify for scholarships that get their funding entirely from private sources.

Which means no taxpayer dollars are being used. Perhaps that will appease some ideologues similar to the issue of abortion where the medical procedure’s critics push for measures restricting government-funded medical programs from paying for the termination of a pregnancy.

Then again, it probably won’t.

BECAUSE THE PEOPLE who get all worked up over immigration reform are the ones who want increases in deportations. Actually, even that doesn’t truly please them, since the deportation total has risen significantly under President Barack Obama.

Yet the conservative ideologues still denounce him. Just as I’m sure they spent their weekend gearing themselves up to denounce Quinn for his own support of this measure that really doesn’t do much.

It will provide a little bit of funding for those students who can get accepted into college. But with the rising cost of tuition, who’s to say it will be at all sufficient?

In fact, about the most significant thing that this Illinois DREAM Act does is that it puts our state in the column of places that aren’t eager to enact hostile legislation meant to make immigrants feel unwelcome.

IT SAYS THAT we’re not Arizona or Alabama, or even Indiana – which this spring debated measures modeled after the Arizona laws that are now largely on-hold while a federal lawsuit is pending.

The Indiana Legislature wound up having to scale back its measures – not going for the measures giving local police significant authority to get involved in enforcement of federal immigration law.

I have been a constant critic of those measures because I realize how much local governments get offended when the federal government tries to meddle in their issues. The same logic applies in reverse.

Which is why I think the Illinois DREAM Act sounds cute, but is misguided. If anything, it is the wrong public official at work.

IF WE REALLY want an Illinois politico striving for better immigration policy, it should be Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., instead of Quinn at work.

For Durbin is the long-time sponsor of the federal DREAM Act measures who has another measure pending this year. Although its likely failure (it probably won’t even get discussed) is what has motivated all these local acts that are too much of a distraction from real action being approved.


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