Tag Archives: Dream Act

Doctor Faustus, I Presume?

Despite pressure from religious groups, humanitarian organizations and the business community–not to mention the U.S. Senate and the Administration– GOP leadership in the House of Representatives is refusing to bring comprehensive immigration reform to a vote.

They “don’t have time this year.”

They had time, however, to vote on a measure sponsored by Rep. Steve King (R-Crazy) to defund the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and treat Dream Act kids like criminals.

The amendment, from Rep. Steve King (R-IA), undercuts the flexibility that allows the Department of Homeland Security to halt deporting DREAMers and instead focus on people convicted of crimes.

After the vote, the House Hispanic Caucus tweeted,”House Republicans just voted to treat DREAMers and undocumented spouses of servicemembers in the same way as violent criminals.” Only six Republicans voted against the measure.

None of those six Republicans was from Indiana.

We expect Marlin Stutzman, Todd Rokita and Jackie Walorski to vote for measures sponsored by the Crazy Caucus (Michelle Bachmann, Steve King, Louis Gohmert et al). But we tend to expect a measure of moderation from those elected from less rabid precincts.

Susan Brooks ran as a reasonable, albeit conservative, alternative to David MacIntosh. Much of her appeal to the more moderate Hamilton County GOP voters was premised on her own (relative) moderation. And those of us who’ve known her for years had, in fact, known her to be personally pretty reasonable and middle-of-the-road.

But Brooks voted to deport the Dream Act kids.

In fact, Brooks’ voting record is strikingly similar to the voting records of Bachmann, King and Gohmert. Her one act of “courage” (if voting as your constituents clearly prefer can be characterized as courageous) was to end the recent government shutdown.

I suppose it is possible that the Susan Brooks I thought I knew was really a rabid anti-Choice, anti-government, anti-immigrant extremist in disguise. But I doubt that.

I think it’s more likely that she is one of the numerous, ambitious political figures who finds it personally advantageous to pander to the currently dominant wing of her party, and is willing to set aside any pesky moral qualms in order to do so.

Doctor Faustus sold his soul and traded his integrity for a taste of earthly pleasures.

As long as I’m trading in literary and historical analogies, here’s a question: Is the Republican base better off with True Believers like MacIntosh, who’ve evidently imbibed the hemlock, or with those who, like Brooks, are willing to make Fausian bargains?

Crushing Their Dreams

In last night’s GOP debate in South Carolina, Mitt Romney once again promised that, as President, he would veto the Dream Act. 

I’ll admit that I find opposition to the Dream Act incomprehensible. I was really disappointed when Dick Lugar responded to the rightwing challenge from Richard Mourdock by withdrawing his long-time sponsorship of that measure. And I am constantly surprised and disheartened by those who are so rabidly anti-illegal-immigration that they see nothing wrong with punishing children for the acts of their parents.

The Dream Act would provide (conditional) permanent residency to undocumented residents of “good moral character” who graduate from US high schools, arrived in the US as minors, and lived in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill’s enactment. If they complete two years in the military, or two years at a four-year institution of higher learning, they can obtain temporary residency for a six year period. Within that six year period, they may qualify for permanent residency if they have “acquired a degree from an institution of higher education in the United States or has completed at least 2 years, in good standing, in a program for a bachelor’s degree or higher degree in the United States” or have “served in the armed services for at least 2 years and, if discharged, received an honorable discharge.”

People for whom illegal immigration is a high-priority issue almost always defend that position by insisting that it isn’t the race or ethnicity of the people involved–that it is a question of rewarding law-breaking. Okay, I get that. But if the point is to punish those who break the law, why punish children who made no such decision, who had no choice in the matter? Most of these children know no other home but America, speak no language but English, and want nothing more than to be contributing citizens. It is heartless to insist that they must be deported to countries with which they are totally unfamiliar.

Not to get all biblical about it, but why visit the sins of the fathers on the children?

Why crush their dreams?

But What About the Children?

I see where a federal judge has upheld the part of Alabama’s harsh new immigration law that requires public schools to check the immigration status of all students. This is one more effort to punish the children of undocumented immigrants.

What I find particularly galling about laws like this, and opposition to the Dream Act (which recognizes what any sane person understands–that a two-year-old did not intentionally ‘break the law’ by coming to the US with his parents) is that the people who are dead-set against allowing these children to attend public schools or universities tend to be the same people who can be found piously proclaiming their concern for ‘the children.’

Protect the children from exposure to porn on the internet! Protect the children from recognizing the existence of gay people! Protect the children from studying ‘dirty’ books in school, or taking them out at the local library!

This heartfelt desire to ‘protect’ children would certainly be laudable if it weren’t so selective. But somehow, this often-expressed concern doesn’t extend to paying taxes to insure that poor children have enough to eat, and it doesn’t extend to educating them so that they can be productive members of the only society they have ever known.

Even Rick Perry, in the only statement he has made that I agree with, has said that people who would keep children of undocumented immigrants out of school are heartless. But then he heard the voice of the Tea Party, genuflected, and apologized. God forbid a candidate for President should show some human compassion!

How mean-spirited have we become?

The Sad Story of Dick Lugar

As Indiana’s Republican Senate primary unfolds, I can’t help thinking of T.S. Eliot’s famous line: “This is the way the world ends–not with a bang, but a whimper.”

One of my earliest forays into political life was during Dick Lugar’s first campaign for Mayor. I supported him as he moved into national politics, and even after I left the Republican party. I didn’t always agree with his positions–Tea Party rhetoric to the contrary, his career trajectory has moved him steadily to the right–but he was reasoned and reasonable, and clearly an expert in foreign affairs. I could and did differ with him on issues like gay rights and abortion, but I respected him.

It must be galling for someone of his stature and intellect to be the underdog against a candidate like Mourdock, a small man supported by the angry mob that currently comprises the GOP base. The fact that over 80% of Indiana’s Republican County chairmen support Mourdock not only explains current internal polls showing Lugar losing, it speaks volumes about what the Grand Old Party has become.

So Lugar has come to the sort of decision-point we all face at one time or another: to face the challenge with integrity–increasing the liklihood he’ll lose–or to grovel before the know-nothings and hope to salvage one final term.

He’s chosen to grovel.

This morning’s paper reported that Lugar has withdrawn his sponsorship of the Dream Act, a measure that would have been relatively uncontroversial in saner times. The Dream Act permits undocumented young people who were brought to this country as babies to gain citizenship by graduating college or serving in the Armed Forces. It recognizes that the charges of criminality leveled at adults who entered the country illegally are unfair when applied to children who had no choice in the matter. Most of those children have grown up as Americans, and have never lived anywhere else. Whatever one’s views on the larger immigration issues, punishing children for the acts of their parents is gratuitous and cruel and serves no purpose. But in our bipolar world, any recognition of complexity, any evidence of human compassion, is “liberal” and therefore unacceptable to those in the GOP most likely to vote in the primary.

The sad part of all this is that Lugar will never be able to satisfy the culture warriors and Tea Party voters who are enraged at his support for weapons reductions and treaties, for his willingness to follow the Constitution and vote to confirm qualified Supreme Court candidates with whom he might personally disagree. These are voters for whom any acknowledgment of nuance and/or complexity is “elitist” (or, if you are black, “uppity”). Rather than regaining their support, Lugar is disappointing the moderate Republicans who are left–the very voters whose larger-than-usual turnout for the primary is his best hope of prevailing.

Going into this primary, Lugar’s choice was simple, if painful. He could defend a long and illustrious career as a statesman, or he could try–desperately and probably unsuccessfully–to  recast himself as one of the current pack of radical ideologues.

Evidently, he’s chosen to go out, not with a bang, but a whimper.