Perchance to DREAM: What Immigrants May Come—and Stay

Somewhere between the Hyde Park section of Chicago (in a subterranean vault fit to withstand a nuclear blast) and a moving truck stranded on Highway 240 outside Badlands National Park—somewhere between there and here are the two most important exhibits of the (to-be-constructed) Barack Obama Presidential Center: his phone and his pen. The pen that signed, among other things, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which prevented the deportation of most illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children. These are the so-called “Dreamers” for whom Congress, under the leadership of that orange-colored, chain-smoking Speaker from Ohio, John Boehner (whose gavel, a polo mallet for political pygmies, should join Obama’s phone and pen in the next episode of “Antiques Roadshow”), the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) was defeated in 2007, 2010, and 2013.

The task before the GOP-controlled House and Senate is to make DACA succeed by enacting something called the “Solution for Undocumented Children through Careers, Employment, Education and Defending our Nation Act,” or SUCCEED.

President Trump has refused to renew DACA, not because he opposes any specific provision of this executive order, but because he thinks—and this may surprise Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell—that the job of our federal legislature is to, well, legislate; and legislate well. They can do so with the passage of SUCCEED.

The test before Congress now hinges not only on the will to succeed, but the success of the power to make SUCCEED a reality, since Democrats tried to force a government shutdown by tying DACA to a spending bill that went nowhere.

It is also a test of Ryan’s integrity, lest he mistake Wisconsin Avenue for his home state of Wisconsin; lest he acquire a taste for wasteful legislative pork, because he was to become lactose intolerant to the needs of his constituents in the Dairy State; lest SUCCEED fail because Ryan chooses to advance his own financial success over the success—and security—of the nation’s economy and our border with Mexico; lest Ryan become another resident of the country’s wealthiest sanctuary city, Washington, D.C., where politicians are a permanent overclass.

The test is whether Ryan can make SUCCEED law, based on the following rules:

1. Residence in the U.S. since age 15 or younger, or residence in the U.S. since June 15, 2012, or earlier.
2. Submission of biometric and biographic data to the Department of Homeland Security.
3. Background (criminal and national security) and medical checks, enrollment in higher education, enlistment in the military, or proof of employment.
4. Maintaining a clean record, staying off welfare, and continuing to study, serve, or work during a five-year temporary status.
5. Continuing this status during a second five-year conditional period, and finally, through a third five-year waiting period.

These rules are no more demanding than the demands we expect of our fellow citizens. We ask nothing more than what President Kennedy asked us to ask not, when he told every nation that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

The question is: Will we still let the word go forth, to friend and foe alike, that America is great because she is good; that responsibility is the cost we accept; that vigilance is the virtue we value; that liberty is the blessing we enjoy and seek to establish for our posterity; that we intend to insure domestic tranquility by providing for the common defense and promoting the general welfare; that we do ordain to continue to pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor to form a more perfect Union?

The answer rests with what the president asks our lawmakers to do—their jobs. He should not have to ask them to be true to what they say on paper, not when what they have previously committed to paper is a series of non-binding resolutions that may as well be an attempt to paper over a problem that worsens every day.

SUCCEED lets the president proceed with the rest of his agenda. By holding 1.1 million illegal immigrants accountable to standards that are neither too high to be unreasonable, nor too low than what is reasonable for those who have already broken the law by being here, we can fix one problem and focus on another.

Congress owes the president nothing less than this chance at success. What follows, be it a wall or a fence, be it better technology or more agents to guard various points of entry, is a means toward a particular end: safe and secure borders.

The alternative for members of Congress is self-deportation from Washington, D.C., to their respective districts. It is the wholesale defeat or resignation of those individuals unwilling to stop injustice with the tools of justice. Voters will certify this choice, and future Americans will little note, nor long remember what those legislators did not do while in office—their duty.

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