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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com

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Friday, March 16, 2012

The DREAM Act: The Challenge to Get It Right

The Hill (by Robert Gittelson): (Gittelson is the co-founder of Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.)

On April 21st, 2012, I will be honored to appear as a panelist in a discussion on immigration at The Awakening in Orlando, Florida. The event is sponsored by the Freedom Federation and by Liberty Counsel, and is advertised as, "Uniting Our Voices Around Shared Values." The panel discussion in question is titled "Immigration: The Challenge to Get it Right." The title is deceptive in its evident simplicity, as in reality, the challenge is a daunting one, and it has befuddled advocates and politicians alike for well over a decade. However, the challenge is a most timely and worthy one, as while the challenge of finding a workable, values-based solution for our immigration crisis has never been greater, the rewards for doing so would prove incredibly worthwhile for our nation.

As I see it, there are actually two interrelated challenges to this issue: the policy challenge of crafting workable legislative solutions, and the political challenge of identifying enough common ground between Republicans and Democrats on this issue to reach 60 votes in the Senate, as well as a majority of votes in the House.

To date, since Comprehensive Immigration Reform was unattainable in 2006 and 2007, the challenge has proven to be too divisive for either party to make any serious attempt to "get it right," since those prior attempts failed. However, if we can unite as a country around our shared values, I can see a pathway forward, and that pathway actually starts now, in our current legislative session. A potential pathway forward in our quest to get immigration right, can and should start right now with a serious bipartisan attempt at finding a policy and political pathway forward on a version of the DREAM Act that also includes serious border security measures.

The DREAM Act has enjoyed a measure of bipartisan support since it was originally introduced over a decade ago. However, it has never achieved enough bipartisan support to pass both houses of Congress. Last year it passed in the House, but failed in the Senate. This year, the House has moved considerably to the right, and the DREAM Act as currently introduced simply does not enjoy enough support to pass either house of Congress. Therefore, the challenge is to find the "sweet spot," the bipartisan legislative language that unites us in our shared values as a Judeo-Christian-based nation, solves the pressing problem of what to do with our high achieving undocumented kids and finds agreements from both parties on sensible border security measures. More specifically, the challenge is to give both sides what they need, even if neither party gets everything that they want. The challenge is to find the elusive, acceptable, values-based compromise that unites us on this issue.

The concept of the DREAM Act is to allow those undocumented young men and women that were brought here, through no fault of their own, as children, to legalize their status so that they can escape their life in the shadows of society and pursue their American dream. Opponents of the DREAM Act call this bill amnesty. Our Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform coalition calls this a common-sense and just approach built around the shared American values of fairness and decency.

There are detractors among us that have drawn a line in the sand, and they will call anything short of deportation -- either by the government or through "self-deportation" -- an amnesty bill. Therefore, they will call any version of the DREAM Act that allows these kids to stay in America amnesty, regardless of the particulars of the bill. Our coalition finds that thinking to be rather short-sighted and frankly intolerant. We urge Americans to look at this measure through a more just and compassionate lens. In America, we don't visit the sins or iniquities of the parents upon their children. We value the Rule of Law, but strive to reconcile the rule of law with our Judeo-Christian values of compassion and tolerance.

Our Nation's policy challenge is to find a compromise that allows these young men and women to legalize their status, but that mitigates as much as possible against the amnesty argument. Our nation's political challenge is to develop a solution that can pass both house of Congress. While we realize that we are in the middle of an election year, we feel that this problem rises above the politics of the moment, and can and must be addressed now -- not despite the challenges to our core values, but frankly because of the challenges to our core values as Americans. Therefore, we urge Congress to look to their values, and to work through this difficult issue to find a values-based legislative compromise that "gets it right," and solves this divisive dilemma once and for all.

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