Iowa Republican Steve King recently got into hot water with controversial comments surrounding illegal immigration and the DREAM Act.
King had this to say about the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S: "For everyone who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert."
King's statistic is offensive and baseless. According to actual data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 55% of alien immigrants removed from the United States were convicted criminals. The American Immigration Council shows that, of the illegal immigrants who would potentially benefit from the DREAM initiative, 71% hail from Mexico, 14% from other North and Central America, 6% from Asia, 6% from South America, 2% from Europe, and 1% from other regions. That's a far cry from the numbers King spouted off.
Still, regardless of his math, the deeper issues at play here which are at the center of the immigration debate are sensitive. As a legal immigrant from Romania, I believe there are points to be made for both sides of the debate.
On one hand, King and others would do well to recognize the extenuating circumstances which many immigrants face in their own countries, such as gang violence and corruption. Some of those who arrive in America illegally are disadvantaged and therefore unable to afford attorney’s fees to apply for asylum. Furthermore, the children of illegal immigrants are not brought to the United States of their own accord, yet they enter the American school system and adhere to American ideals. It seems unfair to take a hardline approach like King would advocate and remove them from a country where they grew up and learned to pledge their allegiance to the American flag.
However, awarding citizenship to illegal immigrants and their families after five years of residence in the United States sends a bad message; the government is essentially rewarding an evident bypass of the law. While some immigrants spend decades applying for and waiting for a Visa, others are basically rewarded for cheating the system and sneaking by the authorities. Moreover, some of the staunchest proponents of immigration reform for illegal immigrants are also dependent on, and perpetuating, a culture of cheap labor that is self-serving and hardly progressive.
So King's comments aside, there's a real debate here on whether the DREAM Act sends the right message or whether it rewards breaking the law.
What do you believe? Share your thoughts on the DREAM Act in the comments below.