By Reynold N Mason JD
Atlanta, March 26, 2011 Just a few short months ago, the outlook for those hoping to become legal residents of these United States looked bleaker than a pre-blizzard sky. There were bad omens everywhere. States in the heat of anti-illegal immigrant paroxysm rushed headlong to the bandwagon of those headed to immigration limbo. Arizona held the helm, being the first to enact a tough anti-illegal immigrant bill that authorized police to stop people suspected of being illegal and demand their papers. There was no shortage of copycat laws, as legislations in pursuit of victory at the polls, pushed to out tough one another on the strict enforcement. What has occurred since the 112th Congress was gaveled into session by John Boehner, has observers happily befuddled. Not a single piece of the expected tough immigration legislation has made it out of the House. In fact, the situation looks positively sunny for those here illegally.
State after seemingly contrite state has pulled back from the brink. Several have done a one-eighty. Utah being Chief among them, passing an immigrant friendly law that allows for migrant workers to be here legally and providing for a supply of migrants by contracting with a Mexican State to provide migrant workers for Utah’s farmers. California, took the lead on the Dream Act bandwagon, enacting legislation granting in State tuition to illegal students. Emboldened, and perhaps encouraged by California’s initiative, other States are jumping on the bandwagon.
The good news is traveling fast. The American spirit of generosity appears to be making a comeback. And there is no place more fitting than the State of New York for the goodwill towards downtrodden immigrants to rear its once drowsy, sleepy head. There, at the mouth of New York harbor, stands the Statute of liberty, on which Emma Lazarus’ immortal words are indelibly inscribed: "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" Ellis Island in the New York area was once the gateway through untold millions on new immigrants came to set foot on U.S. soil for the first time. It is fitting that New York is on the cutting edge of the movement to provide at least a modicum of relief.
Last week Senator Bill Perkins introduced the New York Dream Act. The bill, modeled after the one that crashed and burned in a political firestorm on Capitol Hill last year, is a copy cat Dream Act. It would bring New York’s illegal youth more rights. The one thing missing from the New York Dream is a path to citizenship. Only the federal government can grant that. But New York’s Dream would give under 35 youth who came to the U.S. before age 16, the right to in state tuition, if they have resided in the Big Apple for at least two years.
The promised benefits include access to scholarships, grants and loans. The more intriguing thing about the NY Dream is this; it gives illegal youth the ability to get a driver’s license, State employment authorization, and health insurance. If the bill makes it through, it could, like Utah’s, be a model for sister states to emulate.
A number of other states legislations have taken up their own version of Dream. Maryland has passed its version of Dream, and now joins California in allowing illegal students in state tuition. Immigration activists are puzzled but jubilant, and lately, wisely silent. When the tides are going your way, go with the flow.