OPINION | Democrats peddling 'false hope' act to immigrants
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Late last month, Congressman Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), introduced the American Hope Act, H.R. 3591, with 116 co-sponsors, all Democrats.  

The bill would provide conditional permanent resident status for undocumented aliens who were brought to the U.S. before their 18th birthday, which would permit them to live and work here legally for three years and put them on a path to Legal Permanent Resident status and citizenship.  

Such bills are referred to as “DREAM Acts,” an acronym for “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act.”

It might be more accurate, however, to call this bill “The False Hope Act.”  

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Bills to provide lawful status for undocumented aliens who were brought here as children have been pending in Congress since 2001, and we are yet to see one enacted legislatively, rather than by being implemented through executive action.  And this one was introduced by Democrats in a Republican-controlled Congress.  Moreover, it is out of step with President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden slams Trump over golf gif hitting Clinton Trump Jr. declines further Secret Service protection: report Report: Mueller warned Manafort to expect an indictment MORE’s policies on legal immigration.

What about DACA?

On June 15, 2012, former president Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaGOP rep: North Korea wants Iran-type nuclear deal Dems fear lasting damage from Clinton-Sanders fight Iran's president warns US will pay 'high cost' if Trump ditches nuclear deal MORE established a program to offer temporary lawful status to undocumented aliens who were brought here as children, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. 

The DACA application process required them to admit alienage, concede unlawful presence, and provide their addresses, which puts them at risk if an enforcement-minded president decides to deport them.

Also, ICE officers may check the immigration status of family members when they arrest DACA participants, which could result in entire families being deported.

Threat to DACA

In a letter dated June 29, 2017, eleven state attorney generals asked U.S. Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRhode Island announces plan to pay DACA renewal fee for every 'Dreamer' in state Mich. Senate candidate opts for House run instead NAACP sues Trump for ending DACA MORE to phase out the DACA program.  They warned him that if he does not agree to do this by September 5, 2017, they will amend a pending lawsuit in a Federal District Court to include a challenge to DACA.

Even if Sessions rejects the request to phase out the program, the administration apparently does not intend to defend DACA in court if it is included in the Texas lawsuit.

American Hope Act

Gutiérrez’s bill last month would allow undocumented aliens to apply for conditional permanent resident status if they:

  • Entered the United States before the age of 18;
  • Have been continuously present in the United States since December 31, 2016;
  • Pass a background check; and
  • Have not been convicted of certain criminal offenses.

Why hasn’t a DREAM Act bill been enacted?  

No one knows for sure.  I think it is due mainly to the fact that the number of undocumented aliens who would benefit from such legislation could get quite large.  Also, the fact that they are innocent of wrongdoing with respect to being here unlawfully does not make it in our national interest to let them stay.  This is particularly problematic with respect to the American Hope Act.  Section 4 of this bill includes a waiver that applies to some serious criminal exclusion grounds.  

Although estimates for the number of undocumented aliens who could be impacted are not available yet for the American Hope Act, they are available for similar bills that were introduced this year, the Recognizing America's Children Act, H.R. 1468, and the Dream Act of 2017, S. 1615.

The Migration Policy Institute estimates that potentially 2,504,000 aliens would be able to meet the minimum age at arrival and years of residence thresholds for the House bill and 3,338,000 for the Senate bill.  However, some of them would need to complete educational requirements before they could apply.

Trump is supporting a revised version of the RAISE Act which would reduce the annual number of legal immigrants from one million to 500,000 over the next decade.  It does not seem likely therefore that he will be receptive to a program that would make a very substantial increase in the number of legal immigrants.  

Not merit-based.

The American Hope Act would treat all immigrant youth who were brought here as children the same, regardless of educational level, military service, or work history.  Gutiérrez said in a press release, “We are not picking good immigrants versus bad immigrants or deserving versus undeserving, we are working to defend those who live among us and should have a place in our society.”

This is inconsistent with the skills-based point system in the revised version of the RAISE Act that Trump is supporting.  It would prioritize immigrants who are most likely to succeed in the United States and expand the economy.  Points would be based on factors such as education, English-language ability, age, and achievements.

Thus, Democrats’ American Hope Act as presently written is very likely to suffer the same fate as the other DREAM Acts.  

Success requires a fresh, new approach, and the approach taken by the revised RAISE Act might work by basing eligibility on national interest instead of on a desire to help the immigrants.  Certainly, it would be more likely to get Trump’s support.

Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an executive branch immigration law expert for three years; he subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years.


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