This weekend, the Dream Act– a bill that would provide a path to citizenship to those who illegally immigrated to this country as children, provided they attend college for two years or serve in the military– failed to pass a procedural vote in the Senate. The vote all but guarantees that the Dream Act will not become law in the next two years.
Full disclosure: I’m an outspoken supporter of open immigration. Free immigration, like free trade, moves resources to where they are best employed and results in mutual gains for all participating societies. There is a caveat, which is that immigration potentially suffers from implicit subsidies (the higher availability of government services and transfer payments in the U.S) that could distort us from the optimal equilibrium, but as I’ve written before, the evidence on this matter suggests that these subsidies are not large enough to offset the windfall gains that immigration produces.
But even if I were not a rabid La Raza/U.S. Chamber of Commerce-esque amnesty supporter, I would be hard pressed to oppose the Dream Act. The people that the Dream Act offers a path to citizenship to are, in virtually every sense of the word, Americans. They grew up in America, they see America as their home country– if you deported them to their country of origin, they would be foreigners there. And by offering citizenship only to those who complete some college or join the military, we are virtually guaranteeing that the social benefits of their presence will outweigh their costs.
If Republicans and conservative Democrats can block a bill that would offer citizenship to persons who identify as American and would be a net benefit to this country, I think it speaks to the level of populism in our country’s political environment.