People who sympathize with Dreamers (liberals’ sparklingly-packaged brand for illegals brought to the United States as minors) have long demanded a “path to citizenship.” Yesterday, even President Donald Trump appeared to endorse the idea.
Legalization? Sure. But with citizenship comes the vote — and everyone knows immigrants, and Latinos generally, are far more likely to support Democrats than other voters. As members of the GOP negotiate the future of the Dreamers, anything that immediately makes it harder for us to win elections should be off the table.
Deporting the Dreamers would create a lot of suffering, yes, but that suffering is the fault of their parents, not the United States. A path to legalization would be an act of kindness on the part of the United States. But kindness is a choice, and under no immigration deal should Republicans choose to give the Democrats a new electoral edge.
Legalization solves the urgent problems the Dreamers face. The media’s horror stories about the plight of the Dreamers involve deportation to a country where they have no contacts and don’t speak the language. They involve living in fear of expulsion from their homes. Not being able to pick their Congressmen is far down the list.
But you know whose list it’s high on? Their Democratic allies, who see nearly 1.8 million new voters ripe for the picking. If the real goal is to help suffering young Americans, Democrats should gladly accept a compromise that involves legal status short of citizenship. (Any children of newly legalized Dreamers born in the United States will be fully American, of course.)
Now, it’s true, maybe the Dreamers will someday become an evenly split political group, or even lean Republican. And nothing prevents a future Congress from changing citizenship rules to enfranchise Dreamers. But for now, politics is the art of the possible, and the GOP must make it clear that — whatever the results of immigration negotiations — engineering a new Democrat voting bloc is not possible.
Each party pursues policies to give it an electoral advantage. That’s why gerrymandering is such a battle royale. Democrats oppose voter identification laws (and Republicans support them) as a strategy to shape the electorate as well. And the debate over felons voting is seeped with the racial and party politics of six million suddenly enfranchised former felons.
So don’t fool yourself. They know what they’re doing. Given the choice of deportation or legalization without the vote, Dreamers would obviously pick the latter. So let’s offer it to them, and let Democrats demonstrate whether their Dreamer advocacy has been about compassion — or pure politics all along.