Friday, May 6, 2011

Legislature should stick to addressing concealed loaded handguns – DREAM Act really is out of Illinois’ league

I have been a constant critic of Arizona and other states that think they can pass laws getting their local police involved in federal immigration enforcement because such laws are not only hateful and partisan, they’re also meddling in an issue the states should not be messing with.

So with that same theme in mind, let me take a pot shot at my own home state of Illinois – which this week felt the need to have the state Legislature pass its own version of a DREAM Act.

AT LEAST THAT’S the way the proponents of the measure that got approval by the state Senate are portraying it. What they really passed was a measure that is so miniscule in character that I don’t think it accomplishes much of anything.

Yet there will be those people eager to do the needed reform of the federal immigration policy who will try to claim this is some sort of significant measure.

For all I know, the people who oppose federal immigration reform may now claim that there’s no need to do anymore – because a measure like this got through.

In short, I see this latest action in Illinois as a time-waster. We ought to be putting pressure on the political people in Washington to get serious with this issue – instead of thinking that our political people in Springfield, Ill. (or any other state Capital) can have a serious say in the matter.

WHY AM I bothered by what happened in Illinois – even though I am in full agreement with the sympathies of the people who took the political move?

What is being described as a local DREAM Act is a bill that would allow scholarships and financial aid that does not involve any government funding to be awarded to prospective college students – even if they themselves do not have a valid visa.

The federal measure known as the DREAM Act is aimed at those young people who were brought to this country at a very young age by parents who entered without a visa or let their visa lapse.

Because those young people have lived the bulk of their lives in this country, it is ridiculous to suddenly treat them as something foreign and dangerous to our society at the point when they’re trying to get into college.

BUT THIS STATE version of DREAM just doesn’t amount to much, since these privately-funded programs usually make up a tiny part of any college student’s financial aid package. This isn’t going to make a significant dent in the current situation, by which many of these promising young people are suddenly unable to advance themselves in life.

There also is the provision of the federal DREAM Act bills that call for a young person who actually manages to complete college (or serve in the military and receive an honorable discharge, in some versions) that calls for them to then qualify for “resident alien” status.

That is the legal term for those non-citizens who can openly live their lives in the United States. In short, these young people who either through education or military service show they are promising individuals can get the valid visa – and eventually qualify for the right to apply for U.S. citizenship.

That is a significant part of any such DREAM Act legislation. But there is nothing like that in the Illinois version, because the state has no authority to grant citizenship.

BECAUSE CITIZENSHIP IS a federal issue, not a state one. So just as I don’t want local cops thinking they can start “busting” people who they think “don’t belong” in this country (and maybe they’ll get lucky and turn out to find someone whose visa isn’t in order), I’m just as wary of any state thinking they can grant some sort of relief.

So I’m not anxiously awaiting the outcome when the Illinois House of Representatives takes on this same bill, where its fate is uncertain – although Gov. Pat Quinn has said he would sign the measure into law IF it makes it through the full General Assembly. This is one of those issues where 50 different policies (one for each state) would be absolutely abhorrent – as well as making this nation of ours look absolutely ridiculous.

And with the Illinois Legislature feeling the need these days to take on the issue of “concealed carry,” you’d think the last thing they’d want to do is take on “immigration reform” with an act that won’t make much of a difference either way – except to anger the xenophobic elements of our society who are probably also upset that they won't be able to whip out a pistol and shoot something.

Not legally, anyway. Thank the Almighty that the Illinois House on Thursday had the sense (for now, at least) to reject THAT idea.


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