Immigration: The Fundamental Question

Reihan isn't a fan of the DREAM Act:

As I understand it, the DREAM Act implicitly tells us that I should value the children of unauthorized immigrants more than the children of other people living in impoverished countries. If we assume that all human beings merit equal concern, this is obviously nonsensical. Indeed, all controls on migration are suspect under that assumption.

Timothy B Lee counters:

From my perspective, the fundamental question in the immigration debate is: do we recognize immigrants as fellow human beings who are entitled to the same kind of empathy we extend to other Americans, or do we treat them as opponents in a zero-sum world whose interests are fundamentally opposed to our own? Most recent immigration reform proposals, including the Founder’s Visa and the various guest worker proposals, are based on the latter premise: immigrants in general are yucky, but certain immigrants are so useful to the American economy that we’ll hold our collective noses and let them in under tightly control conditions.

The DREAM Act is different. The pro-DREAM argument appeals directly to Americans’ generosity and sense of fairness, not our self-interest. The hoops kids must go through to qualify for DREAM are focused on self-improvement for the kids themselves, not (like the Founders Visa) on maximizing benefits for American citizens. There’s no quota on the number of kids who are eligible, and at the end of the process the kids get to be full-fledged members of the American community.

Adam Serwer tweaks Lee's formula:

DREAM is politically feasible precisely because it appeals to Americans' generosity, sense of fairness, and self-interest. Those who would be eligible are poised to offer concrete, sustained benefits to the country as a whole. Sending them away is a waste of the resources we've already invested in them, not to mention the ones they're prepared to contribute. DREAM also shaves about $1.4 billion off the deficit in the next ten years. So while DREAMers are getting something very valuable, the rest of us are as well.