At first I thought the Recognizing America’s Children Act (“RAC”) was a Democratic ploy to keep DACA alive in case President Trump and Jeff Sessions turned their attention to deferred action. Not so. H.R. 1468 is a GOP creation. It’s what a Republican amnesty bill looks like. The RAC Act reads a lot like DACA and has something in common: it talks about children but the people it benefits aren’t kids.
RAC Act amnesty for children? Not really.
The RAC Act was introduced on March 9, 2017 by Florida Congressman Carlos Curbelo with 15 GOP cosponsors. You can read H.R. 1468 on Congress.gov, so no need to break it apart here. The bill gives a pass to illegal immigrants brought here as kids if they go to college, enter the military, or work. Five years of conditional status puts applicants on the road to permanent U.S. residence.
This is as close to Democratic foot-in-the-door permissiveness as the GOP can get. The bill raises a lot of the same questions as deferred action. There is vetting, of course. That means by agreeing to background checks applicants are risking turning in the undocumented parents who brought them here. That’s something they might want to think about. Republican sponsors should give it some thought, too. The bill provides that the information collected can’t be used against anyone. Therefore it could ban deportation proceedings against a parent if their identity or whereabouts is part of RAC Act information gathering.
Midterm immigration jitters
Republicans have good reason to be nervous about a midterm backlash against stepped up law enforcement. The recent story of an alleged deferred action “DREAMer” being sent back to Mexico1 is not getting a warm reception in liberal America, so it doesn’t matter what unlucky deported residents do or how justified the government is in taking action. Trump and the Republicans will wear the blame.
That will be a problem in November 2018, but does it justify measures like this?
America’s children are America’s mistake
The hype from RAC Act sponsors sounds the same as what we hear from Democrats: this is the only country these people know, it’s not their fault they are here, and they only want to contribute.2
The undocumented are “America’s children” if they meet RAC Act guidelines.3 I’m not sure why I find this so offensive. “America’s mistake” is closer to the truth, but it does point to one big problem with the bill that makes it very wrong.
Why the RAC Act is wrong
The RAC Act creates new phrases for illegal immigrants such as “alien enlistees” if they serve in the military and “alien postsecondary students” if they choose to attend college.4
Aside from the bill’s rhetorical sleight about children, the problem with this is the same mistake we have been making all along: it gives hope. The RAC Act is another reason to come to America and to remain here if you already made the trip.
Any good parent will do anything for their children. Crossing the border illegally is one of those things. The RAC Act residency requirements are going to be lost on those hoping that if they make the journey another bill and another chance will come their way.
The ethics of amnesty
The RAC Act is a plan for Republican amnesty for one group, pure and simple. It’s not a bad one. It tackles the conundrum over what to do with DACA, but how can we do the right thing without giving hope that by crossing our border life will be better for future generations?
Perhaps the solution is to get this done and then slam the door, crack down hard, and clean house. It’s difficult to argue that kids who were dragged here by their parents did anything wrong. They are now de facto Americans. We let it happen, so it’s our mistake. This can’t be a foot-in-the-door bill, though. America needs to set a deadline, enforce the law, and then remove those left out.
That’s how we recognize America, not just our illegal immigrant children.
1. “Gutierrez on Reports of Deported Dreamer with DACA.” Luis V. Gutierrez. April 19, 2017. https://gutierrez.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/guti-rrez-reports-deported-dreamer-daca, retrieved April 22, 2017.
2. “Curbelo, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Provide Legal Status to Undocumented Children and Young Adults.” Carlos Curbelo. March 10, 2017. http://curbelo.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=1368, retrieved April 20, 2017.
4. “H.R. 1468 – Recognizing America’s Children Act.” Congress.gov. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/1468/cosponsors, retrieved April 21, 2017.