Everyone -- especially young people -- wants that one special gift for Christmas. Well, this year there's a group of kids that will remember the holiday as disappointing after the sins of their parents came back to haunt them. All these kids really wanted for Christmas was a helping hand onto the road to U.S. citizenship.
Their parents brought them to this country illegally, some of them as tiny infants, and although raised here in the United States of America -- knowing loyalty to no other country but this one -- they've been told their American dream stops now.
Our procrastinating Congress ended the first half of its 111th session by once again failing to pass the so-called DREAM Act. The act could have become the first brave and concrete step on the arduous road to immigration reform.
The act was designed to give thousands of foreign born kids who have graduated from high school, lived here for at least five years and who have stayed out of trouble with the law the opportunity to earn permanent residency if they do one of two things -- complete two years in either the U.S. military or at an institution of higher learning.
Sounds to me like a plan to reward respectful young people with something that will, in turn, help the rest of us by creating brand new tax paying and law abiding citizens.
Regular readers of this column know I don't exactly have a soft spot in my heart for illegal aliens. And no, I don't call them "undocumented workers" because they have entered this country by defiantly breaking our immigration laws. But their kids? Come on, people! If we are ever going to get a grip on the problem of illegal immigration we have to start somewhere.
The DREAM Act wasn't going to be a free ride. It required a six-year long commitment from those seeking citizenship. Participating young people would be monitored for compliance with the education or military requirements of the act. If they didn't complete two years of study or receive an honorable discharge from the service their residency would be terminated and they'd be deported.
I can imagine a day when the act could be extended. Once the child met the requirements they could then be used as the sponsor for their parent's eventual citizenship.
Look, our immigration situation is a mess. Do we need to do more to tighten our border security? Yes, of course we do.
Do we need to do more to deport illegal aliens who've committed multiple crimes here? Yes! But take heart in knowing there were a record number of deportations of convicts this year, nearly 400 thousand of them.
Do we need to make it clear to potential immigrants that arriving here with a baby -- in arms or in utero -- does not automatically grant the parents U.S. citizenship? You bet.
But again, we have to start somewhere. We have to break the political impasse that has paralyzed any and all action on immigration reform. We have to stop sticking our heads in the sand figuring the problem will work itself out somehow. That has gotten us exactly nowhere for an unconscionable number of years.
For those who are stuck in the "amnesty only" position -- forget it. We can't condone foreigners coming into our country breaking our laws from the get-go. And, for those mired in the "no amnesty ever" stance -- wake up! We cannot possibly deport the estimated 12 million illegal aliens currently living in the United States. We just can't.
Whether you want to believe it or not, whether you like it or not, America's economy is dependent on these illegal workers. It's a simple fact that if a majority of them suddenly went back to their home country our farms, restaurants, hotels and other industries would be tossed into employee crisis.
If we could just figure out a way to assimilate them into society think of what that would do to our tax base -- thousands, then hundreds of thousands, then millions of new taxpayers sharing our burden! Local and state budgets would see an influx of new funds. The Social Security and unemployment programs would get a boost of new money. Our military would have a new pool of willing recruits.
But to get to that point we have to knock some sense into our elected officials. We have to demand they start somewhere with immigration reform. I can't think of a better place than giving a leg up to those innocent children who were brought here by their parents, who learned the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag just like your child did and who now want to pursue the American dream by going to college or joining the U.S. armed forces.
The first DREAM Act legislation was proposed to the U.S. Congress on August 1, 2001. How much longer do these kids have to wait? How much longer do we, the citizens of the United States, have to wait for meaningful immigration reform?
Let's start demanding it.
Diane Dimond may be reached through her web site: www.DianeDimond.com Her latest book is "Cirque Du Salahi" available at Amazon.com