HOLDEN — What’s so difficult about amnesty for illegal immigrant youth who, as then-President Barack Obama put it, were “brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants,” raised here from a young age and are now facing “the threat of deportation to a country that (they) know nothing about”? Well, there’s more to the story.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals activists recently stormed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office demanding a “clean” amnesty bill with no enforcement provisions, revealing a more ambitious goal than simply alleviating the suffering of youth brought here as children. They want the door left open.

Just as we’ve learned from Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War,” policy questions are complex, serving multiple agendas, and during the Vietnam War it was easier to feed the public a simplistic narrative in which relevant facts were unreported or deliberately misrepresented.

So it is with the Dreamers (as DACA recipients are commonly called). According to the Migration Policy Institute, the total number of eligible amnesty applicants is 1.5 million (not 800,000, as has been widely reported). If each Dreamer were naturalized through the DREAM Act of 2017, then each would be eligible to sponsor their parents.

The parents may have arrived illegally (a misdemeanor), may have used fraudulent documents and stolen identities to obtain jobs (both of which are felonies), may have committed tax evasion (which can be either a misdemeanor or a felony) and may have used public services. They are rarely prosecuted for breaking these laws. But will Congress also reward them with a path to citizenship? Obviously, the latest version of the DREAM Act begins to resemble a Trojan horse for another mass amnesty. And these numbers don’t include chain migration.

Under our system, each naturalized immigrant is allowed to sponsor his immediate family and parents, plus adult siblings, and each of those can sponsor their spouses, children, parents, et al. A recently released Center for Immigration Studies report notes that each new immigrant sponsors an average of 3.45 more immigrants. Twenty years ago, President Bill Clinton’s U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform (the Jordan Commission) recommended limiting immigration to nuclear families, as other nations do. But limits on immigration today are meeting huge pushback in Congress.


And Congress still hasn’t determined what to do about the next Dreamers. The Homeland Security Department recently reported that 629,000 visitors overstayed their visas in fiscal 2016. That’s a year’s addition to the illegal population, and it doesn’t count migrants crossing our southern border. There’s no reason why these folks wouldn’t bring their kids and then demand legalization. And President Trump’s harebrained wall doesn’t end that racket.

As long as Congress continues to protect lawless employers by refusing to mandate E-Verify, the electronic system for verifying legal work papers, then employers will claim, “I didn’t know their documents were fake,” and the jobs magnet continues.

The biggest problem with DACA is that it harms low-skilled workers, mostly young Americans and minorities. The employment situation for those without a college education is bleak, and most DACA applicants compete for the same jobs. Recent Labor Department data indicate that 46 percent of unemployed young blacks are looking for full-time employment, as are 32 percent of unemployed young whites and 56 percent of unemployed young Hispanics.

Contrary to the sympathetic media portrayal of Dreamers, we also have bad apples, lying on their applications. Homeland Security has revoked the status of 2,139 DACA youth since 2012 because of gang affiliation and criminal convictions. Fraud was also a major problem in the 1986 amnesty, described by then-New York Times reporter Roberto Suro in 1989 as “one of the most extensive immigration frauds ever perpetrated against the United States government.”

Is there some compromise that preserves public respect for our government, protects vulnerable American workers and provides compassion for some deserving youth? Mass deportation (never a realistic threat under either Obama or Trump) versus mass amnesty is a false dichotomy. We have options.

For instance, we could legalize a limited number of Dreamers – the ones who actually meet the media description and have solid documentation – allowing them to live and work here, but without citizenship and the right to sponsor relatives. Americans are rightfully uncomfortable providing another sweeping federal protection from our laws to certain favored groups with powerful political allies.

Equality before the law is a bedrock American value. But whatever legalization plan passes, without mandatory E-verify the door stays open for the next wave. Unfortunately, Sen. Chuck Schumer just nixed that idea.

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