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Saturday, December 11, 2010

American DREAM Act

Americans have a love-hate relationship with immigrants and immigration. We love being an immigrant and hate the others who follow us. It is like having your little brother or sister following everywhere you go. You want to be unique and free in your endeavors and not have to share with the brat.

After a few generations of residency in this country we like to forget that 99% of us are immigrants. The only distinction that holds any sway is recent immigrant versus long-term immigrant. For most of the long-term immigrants the dividing line is set by whether you or your ancestors passed through Ellis Island or not. The Ellis Island moniker stands for a point in time not for all prior immigrants. Europeans have swarmed here for centuries before the physical facilities of that portal were built. Incidentally so did Central American peoples via the border with Mexico.

Two of the biggest complaints about continued immigration from south of the border is the notion that they are taking away Americans' jobs and are sponging off our social services institutions. Both notions are partially true, and equally false. Without proper documentation an illegal immigrant cannot hold a job of any real significance such as bank teller, loan officer, real estate agent, lawyer, Doctor, Engineer, nurse, etc. They cannot pay taxes and collect on the benefits thus pair for. Living on the fringes of society, they don't reside in big houses and pay real estate taxes. They don't buy expensive new cars and pay sales tax on such items. In the big picture of such an existence, they are actually denied the ability to pay taxes. They cannot contribute in a bigger way to the revenue streams of the communities where they live and work.

Since they must hide themselves in the greater numbers of Latino citizens and legal aliens they cannot take advantage of insurance pools that would allow them to be covered for medical care. Most of the work they do is not for large corporate employers who include health insurance coverage for individuals and families. The result is indigent care in emergency rooms that is required by law.

One of the great innovation of Western civilization is the notion of private property and the ability to inherit. These two construction of law enable a family to start where their parents left off. The grandchildren in a family lineage can benefit from the hard work that their grandparents undertook to improve the lot of the family. With private property and inheritance the next generation may not need to buy a house and have a mortgage. There may be a going business that the sons and daughters can take over and continue. There may be intellectual properties on which several generations of family live. These benefits to the family also benefit society at large by allowing that some people do not need to take a job in order to have the money needed for participation in this society.

Such generational benefits are denied to all illegal residents inside America. First, the economic level of most such people is so low that accumulating wealth is a non-starter. Second, there is no way to convert their labors into long standing assets such as homes and businesses. This makes the immigrant and his/her children forever beholden to the labor market and the whims of legal residents to hire and pay them. It makes them generationally beholden to the social services institutions that have been established over the years that attempt to make sure that people are not hungry, sick or cold amongst the greatest wealth in the world.

Forever denying citizenship to the children of people who crossed the border without an invitation creates and maintains an underclass of near slave laborers. They become generationally dependent on other taxpayers even though they may be paying taxes without receiving any benefits for them. This is where the DREAM Act enters the picture.

A child younger than 18 who arrived with his/her parents is just as undocumented but not culpable for the commission of a crime. They need a path to full participation in this society so that they will eventually be able to make the transition from mere laborer to that of college educated managers and professionals. They need a way to become legitimized so that they too can acquire wealth and pass it along to their progeny. Otherwise society at large will always be called upon to subsidize their existence in this land. They will remain perpetually poor while the people who do employ them will keep getting wealthier.