Last week the Immigration Policy Center published a comparison of the provisions of various bills before Congress that would grant some sort of legal status to some subset of the millions of young people living in the United States without legal status. The DREAM Act, the ARMS Act, and the STARS Act promise some path to legal permanent residency for young people who entered the country as children. The DREAM Act is more of a favorite of democrats and liberally offers the possibility to apply for a green card after completing 2 years of college or two years of military service. ARMS and STARS are Republican proposals that deal with military service and college achievement separately, and contain stricter provisions and longer requirements for service or study.What strikes me about all of these proposals is how they condition the right to remain in your adopted homeland on educational and career decisions. All of these laws only really apply to people between ages 18 and 30 or 35. Think of how much happened in your own life during that time period, or the lives of your brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. How many struggled throught their first years of college, maybe took time off, or abandoned academia all together for a livelihood not dependent on a degree? Should all of those who stray from the prescribed path to college and career be exiled? How will the knowledge that a student's right to stay in her hometown is dependent on attaining a degree affect teachers and administratorsdecisions about grading and awarding credits? As for the military option, do we want our defenders to be an army of conditional residents, young people who fear that leaving the service will get them deported? Do we want enlistment and disciplinary decisions to be colored by officers' knowledge that a recruit or servicemember may face deportation?
As an immigration attorney, I suppose I really should be in favor of the strictest and most convoluted conditions possible on any path to citizenship. After all, the more confusing the laws are, the more business we attorneys should get. However, as a citizen of the United States, I do not think these strict requirements for undocumented youth are in our national interest. There are many, many more ways to be a productive and valuable member of society than are dreamed of in DREAM, STARS, or ARMS. We may be losing artists, entrepreneurs, homemakers, hairdressers, caregivers, and just good solid hardworking neighbors. We should be trying to make the best use of the talents and abilities of the people of the population available to us, rather than spending so much effort weeding out those that fail to match some ideal.