(Published by POLITICO)
A new American 'Enlistment Act'
By DAVID G. ARREDONDO | 12/8/10 12:28 PM EST
Democrats, liberals and many Latinos are currently pushing passage of the Dream Act during the lame-duck Congress. Unfortunately, many of us are unsure of what they mean by the "Dream Act" since there appear to be continuing revisions made, to sell it to as many senators and congressmen as possible.
Originally, the Dream Act was proposed to provide amnesty for the children of illegal immigrants, who had been brought to America, perhaps one million or more. The intent is to allow these "children" – more than age 16 and less than 35 — to gain residency and citizenship provided they either attend two years of college or enlist in the military. Sounds doable. But actually, it involves unfunded mandates on the states, the creation of a new bureaucracy and an undetermined cost of taxpayer dollars. In addition, many in the field of education say that two years of college enrollment and credit can often provide little to a student’s higher education success.
But the biggest hidden cost is that once these students were awarded permanent residency, under current immigration law, they would then be able to sponsor their parents and other siblings for Permanent Residency status. Yes, the parents who created the issue by coming here illegally would have the opportunity to remain legally.
Last week the Dream Act’s Democratic sponsors began scaling back the age of eligibility – to age 29 from 35. Now is not the time to be revising the bill in hopes of gaining more votes. Congress needed to hold hearings about these various possibilities before making these revisions that now make the bill unclear.
Given the pressing needs of the economy, it is doubtful that any version of the Dream Act can be passed now.
Many on the right object to any amnesty until our borders are secured and a resolution of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants is settled. But there is a minimal action with no increased cost and no new bureaucracy that could help these eligible children of illegal immigrants. Consider this:
1. Individuals under the age 26, brought to the United States illegally as children, could be allowed to enlist in the armed forces and serve a four year enlistment. They would have to fulfill all military eligibility requirements.
2. While in the military, they will also receive Advanced Individual Training, to provide skills for the future.
3. After completion, and honorable discharge, they would be granted U.S. citizenship.
4. Their earned G.I. benefits would then allow them to enroll in an institution of higher learning.
I believe that this proposal is workable, in that it adds no new costs to our current federal budget and deficit. It does not burden the states' education systems. It establishes no new bureaucracies, gives the armed forces needed manpower, and qualifies the individual's enlistment eligibility and completion.
It is by no means going to be easy for these young people. But it gives these future military veterans stature, permanent residency and citizenship.
In effect, it would be the same benefit that legal immigrant permanent residents have historically earned—U.S. citizenship after honorable discharge from the armed forces.
David G. Arredondo is the director of international student services at Lorain County Community College. He is the vice chairman of the Lorain County Republican Party.