THE DREAM ACT:
NEW PATHWAYS TO CITIZENSHIP
After 10 years of trying, the proposed DREAM Act
defeated yet again in the U.S. Congress in 2010.
The DREAM Act seeks to give a pathway to American citizenship
to foreign-born children who were brought into the United States
by their parents without permission from anyone.
Opponents who voted against this proposal
object to specific provisions in the original bill.
In order to
win more votes from the initial
opponents of the DREAM Act,
this proposed law could also be expanded to include
all children born to foreign nationals
living in the USA without permission.
In other words, a new DREAM Act would embrace
children of citizens of other countries
who are settled in the USA without permission:
to foreign nationals in the USA
as well as children who were brought
into the USA
without permission after
they were born.
If this concession to the opponents is too dramatic,
what other modifications of the DREAM Act
that would attract sufficient new votes
the next time this bill is introduced?
THE BASIC PURPOSE OF THE DREAM ACT
2. THE JUSTICE OF EARNED CITIZENSHIP FOR CHILDREN OF FOREIGN NATIONALS
3. WHY INITIAL OPPONENTS OF THE DREAM ACT WOULD VOTE FOR AN EXPANDED
HOW MANY CHILDREN WOULD QUALIFY FOR CITIZENSHIP?
5. NEW PATHWAYS TO CITIZENSHIP
6. LIMITING CHAIN-IMMIGRATION
7. REGISTRATION OF ALL FOREIGN NATIONALS
ANY EXPANDED DREAM ACT WILL CONTAIN COMPROMISES
DEPORTATION OF DREAMers SUSPENDED IN JUNE 2012
THE DREAM ACT:
PATHWAYS TO CITIZENSHIP
by James Leonard Park
1. THE BASIC PURPOSE OF THE
As originally proposed, the DREAM Act was intended
to provide a pathway to
for children of foreign nationals who were brought into the USA without
Because these children were born
in other countries,
they were normally citizens of those countries by birth.
But, especially if they came to the USA as
very young children,
they have spent basically all
of their lives in the United States.
When they were school-age, they were educated in U.S. schools.
They have absorbed the American way of life by living in the USA.
Often they know more about life in the USA than about life in their
countries of birth.
Most of them speak English, perhaps better than their parents.
And almost all wish to become American citizens.
The proposed DREAM Act set forth a few criteria for
these children to fulfill
in order to earn citizenship
in the United States of America.
For example, they could complete two years of college.
Or they could serve two years in any branch of the U.S. military
2. THE JUSTICE OF EARNED CITIZENSHIP FOR CHILDREN OF FOREIGN
It was no fault of their own that they were either
born in the USA or
brought into the USA without permission while they were still minor
These children are entirely
of any possible violations of law committed by
So they should not be punished for the unlawful behavior of others.
The blame for the present facts rests with ineffective immigration control.
The United States of America has had very porous borders,
which has allowed millions
of citizens of other countries
to enter and settle in the USA
And the enforcement of visas has similarly been lax.
Citizens of other countries who were granted permission to visit the USA
sometimes came into the United States with official authorization;
but then they just did not return to their homelands when their visas
The Department of State did
not keep track of them well enough
to make sure they went back to their countries of citizenship
when the agreed period for work, study, or vacation, was completed.
A picture-based National Identity
File would be the easiest way to replace
most such ineffective immigration controls.
Green cards, passports, & other immigration documents include
When these photos are printed on paper or plastic,
false documents can easily be created.
But if the photos were kept in the computer of the
then identities could not be
and false identities could
not be created.
When a National Identity Bureau is created,
immigration without permission
will dry up
because citizens of other countries present in the USA without
would not be able to obtain jobs,
open bank accounts,
or conduct dozens of other activities that require identification.
We might also create simple pathways to citizenship
for adults who slipped into the USA because of lax immigration
controls in the past.
In many cases, this would be more
just than sending them back to their
countries of origin.
3. WHY INITIAL OPPONENTS OF
DREAM ACT WOULD VOTE FOR AN EXPANDED
The main improvement initial opponents will embrace
After the effective date of the new DREAM Act,
all children born to
foreign nationals would become citizens of their parents' homelands,
that is, they would have the same
citizenship as their parents.
This is also true of children of U.S. citizens who happen to be born
while their American mothers are living in other countries.
Whether birthright citizenship can be ended in the
USA by a simple change of law
will probably have to be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Some opponents of ending birthright citizenship
claim that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
is the source of this right.
But a strong case can be made that the 14th Amendment
was intended to grant citizenship to former slaves
and was never imagined to cover children born to visitors from
More discussion of ways to clarify who is included in birthright
will be found here: "Born in the USA: The Easy Way to Become a U.S.
If the expanded DREAM Act ends automatic citizenship
for all babies born somewhere in the USA,
no matter what the citizenship of their parents,
then all children of foreign
nationals will be treated the same
matter where and when they were born.
All people who have lived most of their lives in the
can be offered reasonable
pathways to citizenship.
Ending automatic citizenship based on location of
would not cancel the citizenship of babies already born.
But it would put new babies
born to citizens of other countries
into the same category as children brought into the USA without
after they were already alive.
All the children in the family would have the same
pathway to citizenship.
Consider this example:
A family from Canada came into the USA without permission.
There were two parents and two children, ages 4 and 8.
While they were living in the USA, one additional child was born.
If an expanded DREAM Act includes ending birthright
for babies born to citizens of other countries,
then all three children would be Canadian citizens, along with their
And all three children would qualify for the pathways to U.S.
defined in the new proposed DREAM Act.
In other words, the new baby does not get a free
Certificate of U.S. citizenship.
But all three children have the opportunity to earn U.S. citizenship
by fulfilling the requirements set forth in the new DREAM Act.
All foreign children already
settled in the USA thru no fault of their own
would be offered pathways to
citizenship under this expanded DREAM Act.
4. HOW MANY CHILDREN WOULD QUALIFY FOR CITIZENSHIP?
An estimated two million children of foreign
would have been eligible for citizenship under the original DREAM Act.
As soon as children born in the USA to citizens of other countries are
this number of eligible
children would increase by about half-a-million
(Children born to foreign mothers plus new unauthorized immigrant
The 12 million foreign nationals settled in the USA
give birth to 400,000 children each year.
This number of new babies would diminish
if there were fewer foreign nationals living in the USA
and if new children born after the effective date of this expanded
did not automatically become U.S. citizens.
These numbers cannot be very precise,
because the U.S. Census Bureau is unable to count foreign nationals
who do not wish to be known by any arm of government.
After better methods of registering all people living in the USA are
we will know whether the number of foreign nationals is 12 million or
The U.S. Census Bureau now estimates that 380,000
babies are born each year
to mothers who are not authorized to be present in the USA.
Because citizens of other countries living in the USA without permission
do their best not to be
the reported numbers can only increase as better registration is
Here we will use the estimate of 400,000 new babies born each
to mothers who are present in the USA without permission.
In other words, 10 years after the effective date of
this expended DREAM Act,
there might be as many as 7 million children eligible.
(The original 2 million children already present in 2012,
plus 400,000 more born to foreign mothers each year
and some additional numbers of unauthorized foreign children entering
But, depending on the effect of this new DREAM Act,
the number of children born to foreign citizens might decrease each
Citizens of other countries would no longer have any incentive to have
in order to win American citizenship for the whole family.
By ending automatic citizenship based on location of birth,
any new children born to foreign nationals
would also be citizens of the
same countries as their parents.
When the parents are finally registered with the U.S. government,
all of their children will also be registered.
And everyone in the family will have the same citizenship.
As other immigration reforms become effective,
the numbers of citizens of other countries living in the USA
would be reduced each year.
If ever immigration comes completely under the provisions of law,
then the DREAM Act will no
longer be needed:
All immigrants will come into the USA with permission.
And their children can become citizens right along with their parents
if they are still minors when their parents are naturalized.
Effective immigration controls will eventually
the class of people who would benefit from any expanded DREAM Act.
All living children of immigrant families will be named on their visas.
All children born into immigrant families after immigration
will also remain citizens of the homelands of their parents
until the whole family is naturalized—parents
and children together.
reform will keep the whole family one citizenship.
This will eliminate family-break-up caused by current immigration law
The family will be kept together, no matter where they live:
All minor children will either be naturalized with their parents
or return to their homeland if the parents are repatriated.
5. NEW PATHWAYS TO
basic purpose of the DREAM Act is to offer reasonable pathways to
to the children of foreign nationals brought into the USA without
But an expanded DREAM Act could also include pathways to citizenship
for the parents of
such children plus any new
children born after the family settled in the USA.
Granting that is impossible to return all foreign
nationals to their homelands,
we can create careful
pathways to U.S. citizenship for most of these
The standards for naturalization are already laid out in law.
And these criteria for American citizenship can be expanded.
The new pathways to citizenship would obviously take into account
the requirements for becoming U.S. citizens:
being able to use the English language,
being able to support themselves,
following the all federal, state, & local laws, etc.
The original DREAM Act offered military service as a
way of earning citizenship.
Should this also be offered to the parents?
Employment in some legitimate occupation seems a reasonable requirement.
Whatever new pathways we create,
we must acknowledge that some
individuals will fall short of the
They will not be able to earn U.S. citizenship.
For example, some will not qualify because they continue to violate
Reasonable methods of repatriating those who do not qualify for U.S.
must also be created.
The time-line for each pathway toward citizenship
will normally embrace several years.
And persons who are initially rejected because of continuing criminal
which puts them into correctional institutions,
will be able to amend their
and prove that they can contribute
to American society.
6. LIMITING CHAIN-IMMIGRATION
Another way to win more votes from legislators
opposed to the original DREAM Act
would change the very liberal definitions in current immigration law
concerning who can emigrate into the USA
because they already have "immediate family" authorized to live in the
Perhaps "immediate family" would mean only nuclear families:
Two parents, plus all of their children.
More distant relatives such as siblings and parents
of persons given permission to live in the USA
would have to apply under the same
criteria used for all foreign
They should certainly mention in their visa-applications
that they do have such-and-such relatives already living in the USA.
But this bare fact will not grant them automatic admission to the
7. REGISTRATION OF ALL
Another possible provision that would attract more
would be to include complete
all citizens of other countries living in the United States.
Those who have visas and/or green cards are already registered.
But there are millions of other foreign nationals settled in the USA
Perhaps one requirement for citizenship under a
revised DREAM Act
would be the disclosure and
registration of all other family members.
If such provisions seem to discriminate against
then the revised DREAM Act could include universal registration
of all people living in the
Such a registration would include all U.S. citizens and non-citizens,
including all children, no matter where they were born.
Every man, woman, or child living in the USA or its territories
would be included in the computer of a new National Identity
8. ANY EXPANDED DREAM ACT
Even tho purists will advocate the DREAM Act as
realists will recognize that some compromises with the initial opponents
will have to be made in order to have any bill become law.
In order to provide pathways to citizenship for children of
we might have to accept new immigration provisions
that do not immediately appeal to us.
Comprehensive immigration reform means accepting
reasonable new controls on immigration.
Which new controls would be workable, appropriate, & measured?
Which new provisions would genuinely benefit the United States of
9. DEPORTATION OF DREAMers
SUSPENDED IN JUNE 2012
On June 15, 2012, the U.S. Department of Homeland
announced "deferred action" for all foreign nationals who would qualify
for the DREAM act.
This is officially called "deferred action for childhood arrivals"—DACA.
By administrative decision (in contrast to new legislation),
foreign nationals who were children when they were brought into the USA
(age 15 or below) will no longer be subject to immediate deportation
if they were less than 31 years old on June 15, 2012.
They will not be prosecuted for the immigration violations of their
And, unless they have been convicted of serious crimes,
they will be given temporary authorization to work in the USA.
Such two-year authorizations might be renewed on a case-by-case basis.
This "deferred action" does not grant amnesty.
And it will not automatically open a pathway to American citizenship.
Also, after the foreign nationals register with the U.S. government,
the months under this new status will not count as months 'out of
All further questions of legal residence and possible citizenship
will have to be established by immigration reform at some later time.
Deciding not to prosecute DREAMers already settled
in the USA
will not encourage additional unauthorized immigration,
because "deferred action" also requires at least 5 years
of continuous presence in the USA up to and including June 15, 2012.
About one million young, law-abiding foreign
who were brought into America by
their parents without
will probably register under this decision not to deport them.
This new database of foreign-born children
might be the beginning of Registration
James Park is himself an immigrant to the United
He was a child when his whole family was admitted to the USA in 1949.
So there was no way to know ahead of time what he might contribute.
But each family member has proven to be good for America.
Much more about James Park will be found on his website,
which now has more than 1,000 rooms.
Some of these rooms contain other essays about
Be Above Average
New Criteria for Selecting New Americans .
Selecting New Americans .
I am an
Problems and Solutions:
Keeping the UU Debate Constructive .
A Range of Options .
Deportation of Persons Likely to Qualify for
a Pathway to Citizenship under Immigration Reform .
Millions of Foreign Nationals out of the Shadows .
Carrots and Sticks .
If They Cannot
Work, They Will Not Come:
And Many Will Return to their Homelands .
Foreign Nationals in the USA:
How Many Will Stay?
Born in the USA:
The Easy Way to Become a U.S. Citizen
Repatriation of Citizens of other Countries and their Families
December 22, 2010; Revised 12-31-2010; 1-5-2011; 1-9-2011; 5-12-2011;
6-5-2011; 6-9-2011; 9-29-2011;
1-28-2012; 4-20-2012; 6-19-2012; 11-17-2012