Commentary Magazine


Making DREAM a Reality

Mickey Kaus is gloating about the Senate’s failure to pass the DREAM Act. This legislation, which would create a new path to citizenship for minor children of undocumented immigrants who have clean records and either join the military or attend college, attracted 52 votes on a “cloture” motion, while only 44 senators voted against closing off debate. (For the vote breakdown, see here.) Most of those voting for cloture were Democrats, but they were joined by a dozen Republicans, including such conservatives as Orrin Hatch and Sam Brownback. Since 60 votes are required to end debate on controversial proposals, the DREAM Act effectively has been killed, for now.

Kaus is happy because he thinks the DREAM Act would have provided an incentive for more illegal immigration. (So does the Bush administration, which opposed this measure.) I don’t think that’s true of the DREAM Act, which applies only to those who have already lived in America for five years prior to the enactment of the law.

In any case, no extra incentives are needed for people to come here, especially from countries such as Mexico that don’t offer as much economic opportunity. They will come no matter what; the question is whether we are going to give them an avenue toward becoming tax-paying citizens or force them to remain underground. There is no better way to assimilate immigrants than through military service, one of the pathways specified by the DREAM Act.

As I’ve argued before on contentions, I think this a good piece of legislation that takes a major step toward one of my dreams: to offer American citizenship to anyone anywhere in the world willing to serve in the American armed forces. This would vastly broaden our recruiting base, allowing the armed forces to sign up all sorts of talented people who are currently prohibited from joining. They would, of course, have to pass background investigations and meet all existing criteria for military service, including English-language proficiency.

I’ve been advocating this idea for several years, and even though it’s not currently possible, I’ve gotten emails from Canadians, Chinese, Dutch, and other foreigners wanting to sign up for our armed forces. All it would take to make their dreams a reality would be for the Secretary of Defense to certify that enlisting them is in the national interest. Legislation isn’t required, although that’s another way this objective could be achieved.

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