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Opinion

Republicans want to create second-class citizens. You're not DREAMing.

Republicans haven't abandoned extreme positions on immigration. They've just transferred controversial proposals to the state level.

By Daniel Altschuler / March 9, 2011



Amherst, Mass.

As the immigration debate continues, Americans need to ask themselves: How do we feel about creating a permanent group of millions of second-class citizens in this country? Because, listening to Republican immigration proposals these days, it seems that this is precisely what the some key members of the GOP want to do.

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Think I’m exaggerating? Keep reading.

Since taking over the House of Representatives in January, Republicans in Congress have tried to hide the nasty underbelly of many of their immigration positions by shifting the battle away from the Capitol. They haven't abandoned extreme positions – they have merely transferred their most controversial proposals from the national to the state and local levels. If even the Republicans once touted as “moderates” cannot pull their party back from the precipice, the country will face the prospect of proposed immigration legislation that would officially shut the door on a mostly Latino under-class.

How new proposal creates second-class citizens

Let me explain. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) of Texas recently revealed that, though she voted against the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act in December, she now supports a modified bill. What’s the modification, you ask? Well, merely that DREAM – a bill that set an earned path to citizenship for youths, brought here by their parents as minors, who attend college or serve in the military – would no longer offer these students any chance of citizenship.

1-MINUTE DEBATE: Should America's illegal immigrants be offered legal status?

In short, Sen. Hutchison’s proposal would spare DREAM youths from deportation, but wouldn’t grant them a path to citizenship. This, in effect, would convert them into permanent second-class citizens, without the right to vote. If adopted, Hutchison’s proposal would portend a neo-segregationist era: We would allow children raised in this country to remain here indefinitely, but deny them the rights that we guarantee to their schoolmates.

Moreover, if the experience of “guest workers” in this country is any guide, the permanent non-citizens that Hutchison envisions would remain more vulnerable to discrimination, the violation of labor rights, physical and sexual abuse, and threats of future deportation. Democracies, by their very nature, are designed to serve those who have a voice and vote – citizens – in their representative structure. Therefore, political systems like ours are usually bad at protecting the rights and addressing the needs of disenfranchised residents. It’s fair to expect that the fate of non-citizen permanent “visitors” in the US would be dismal indeed.

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