White House re­vives push for Dream Act

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY BEN WOLF­GANG

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials are be­gin­ning to ratchet up the pres­sure on Congress to pass con­tro­ver­sial im­mi­gra­tion-re­form mea­sures, but crit­ics fear the changes are al­ready be­ing made with­out lawmakers’ con­sent.

Sec­re­tary of Ed­u­ca­tion Arne Dun­can told re­porters on June 27 that the nation “des­per­ately” needs to en­act the Dream Act, which would pre­vent the de­por­ta­tion of il­le­gal aliens who are study­ing at Amer­i­can col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties or have served at least two years in the mil­i­tary.

The leg­is­la­tion, which was drafted a decade ago, has faced strong op­po­si­tion in Congress each time it’s been rein­tro­duced and stands lit­tle chance of pass­ing this time around, es­pe­cially with Repub­li­cans in con­trol of the House.

But the ad­min­is­tra­tion has by­passed Congress and be­gun to re­lax its de­por­ta­tion pro­to­col. In a June 17 memo, Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment Di­rec­tor John Mor­ton said agents should ex­er­cise “dis­cre­tion” when de­cid­ing who can stay and who must go.

Spe­cial con­sid­er­a­tion should be given to mil­i­tary vet­er­ans, those who have grad­u­ated high school or are pur­su­ing col­lege de­grees, the el­derly, mi­nors, preg­nant women and those with se­ri­ous health con­di­tions, he said. An im­mi­grant’s “ties and con­tri­bu­tions to the com­mu­nity” and his “ties to the home coun­try and the con­di­tions in the coun­try” should also be weighed, ac­cord­ing to the memo.

Mr. Dun­can said the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s top pri­or­ity, when de­ter­min­ing whom to de­por t, is “crim­i­nal be­hav­ior.” He said ICE of­fi­cials are “less in­ter­ested” in stu­dents and other law-abid­ing res­i­dents.

Mr. Mor­ton’s memo in­structs agents to con­sider a per­son’s crim­i­nal his­tory, as well as whether he is a na­tional se­cu­rity threat or pub­lic safety concern, be­fore mak­ing a de­ci­sion on de­por­ta­tion.

The change has drawn fire from Repub­li­cans, and Rep. La­mar Smith, Texas Repub­li­can, plans to in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion block­ing se­lec­tive de­por­ta­tions by ICE.

While that fight plays out, the ad­min­is­tra­tion is try­ing sell the Dream Act by point­ing out its eco­nomic ben­e­fits.

Mr. Dun­can said the

law would re­duce the deficit by $1.4 bil­lion over the next decade by al­low­ing more il­le­gal aliens to stay in the coun­try and pay taxes. He also said that con­tin­u­ing to de­port tal­ented peo­ple just be­cause they’re here il­le­gally “doesn’t make any sense.”

“We want to con­tinue to raise aware­ness. We want to push [the Dream Act] very, very hard this year,” he said on a con­fer­ence call, joined by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a for­mer White House chief of staff, and Mar­garet Stock, a for­mer West Point pro­fes­sor.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion is also tak­ing ad­van­tage of the me­dia frenzy sur­round­ing the rev­e­la­tion that Pulitzer Prize-win­ning jour­nal­ist Jose An­to­nio Var­gas isn’t a U.S. cit­i­zen. Mr. Var­gas re­vealed his se­cret in a piece for the New York Times Mag­a­zine.

“I won­der how many other po­ten­tial Pulitzer Prize-win­ning jour­nal­ists are out there who have never had the op­por­tu­nity” to win the award be­cause they’re in the coun­try il­le­gally, Mr. Dun­can said.

But tax rev­enue and Pulitzer Prizes aren’t the only rea­sons to pass the Dream Act, the ad­min­is­tra­tion ar­gued. Ms. Stock cited the “na­tional se­cu­rity” threat caused by cur­rent im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, specif­i­cally the loom­ing “prob­lem with mil­i­tary re­cruit­ing,” which could be par­tially solved, she said, by al­low­ing il­le­gal aliens to serve.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Sec­re­tary of Ed­u­ca­tion Arne Dun­can con­tends the Dream Act would re­duce the fed­eral deficit by $1.4 bil­lion over the next decade by al­low­ing more il­le­gal aliens to stay in the countr y and pay taxes.

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