Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Dream Act Could Be a Nightmare for H-2B

According to news reports, Congress is supposed to vote on an important bill that will continue to fund our troops fighting overseas. This is exactly the kind of bill that recent extensions to the H-2B program have been attached to. And even though there might be some debate and a few votes against the measure (especially from Democrats currently running for president, which by my count now reaches 174), members of Congress know enough not to vote against the troops while they are in harm's way. Good news for H-2B, right?

Not necessarily. Senator Dick Durbin, D-IL, is also planning to try to attach legislation known as the Dream Act to the defense funding. The Dream Act has good intentions. It's designed to help children of illegal immigrants stay in the United States since they're not the ones who broke the law, and hence shouln't be punished for their parents' mistakes. To qualify, they must have been in the country for at least five years, have a high school diploma and meet other requirements. Over the next six years, they would have to spend two years in college or in the military, after which they could become legal permanent residents.

While the H-2B program has been extended numerous times and has bi-partisan support, even if it is widely misunderstood by the general public, the Dream Act is precisely the kind of wedge legislation that divides Congress and the public. On the one hand are children, who nobody wants to vote against; and on the other are illegal immigrants, who just aren't popular with the general public. On top of that, opponents of the Dream Act suggest that it would become a bureaucratic nightmare to implemenl, and way too easy for illegals to forge documents proving they meet the Act's requirements.

Ideally, a 3- to 5-year H-2B extension could have been quietly passed and serve its purpose until broader immigration reform can be accomplished. But I think a proposal like the Dream Act will cause opponents to axe all immigration reform measures together, leaving the Green Industry dangerously short on workers come next spring. Hopefully I'm wrong.

Here's a few links to learn more about the Dream Act:

Democrats in Senate returning to Immigration

Student's hopes rest on federal Dream Act

The return of the American Nightmare, A.K.A. The Dream Act

Foes line up to oppose Dream Act

— Mike Seuffert

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