Rep. Lamar Smith Pre-Empts Obama Immigration Address With DREAM Act Attack

May 10, 2011 1:16 pm ET — Brian Powell

Rep. Lamar Smith

President Obama is set to address the nation from Texas today, laying out his administration's case for immigration reform. But in an op-ed published yesterday afternoon, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) attempted to pre-empt the president by spreading more misinformation about so-called "chain" immigration and the DREAM Act. The bill would provide a path to citizenship for children who were brought into the United States illegally and who have adhered to strict residency and educational requirements while demonstrating "good moral character." It failed in the 111th Congress despite being supported by a majority of the American people; many states have since picked up parts of the bill on their own.

In an op-ed in The Hill, Smith dismisses the predicament faced by individuals who were brought here at a young age. He writes:

It's easy to be sympathetic to illegal immigrant children who were brought here by their parents. Because their parents disregarded America's immigration laws, they are in a difficult position. But by granting citizenship, the United States would actually reward their illegal immigrant parents who knowingly violated our laws.

The DREAM Act perpetuates the problem it claims to solve and penalizes citizens and legal immigrants. Once they become citizens, illegal immigrants could petition for their parents to be legalized. The parents could then bring in others in an endless chain.

This would undoubtedly encourage more illegal immigration.

The claim that the DREAM Act will create this "endless chain" of immigrants is an ugly distortion of the truth that Smith has used before. Smith's op-ed makes it seem as though once a child becomes a citizen he can simply fill out an application and his parents will immediately become citizens as well. In fact, this claim ignores the highly restrictive immigration process that currently exists.

For example, under federal law, a U.S. citizen must be 21 years old to petition to bring alien parents or other relatives into the United States as legal immigrants. The petition process is arduous. A research document on the subject produced by the Scott Immigration Law Firm goes into detail:

Once the child turns 21, he can file a visa petition for the parent. The Restrictionists present this information as though it then becomes a simple matter of filing paperwork. What they don't tell you is that if the parent entered without inspection, the parent is not able to apply for a green card from within the US. She would have to apply for a visa at the consulate. But because she was previously unlawfully present for more than a year, she will be banned from entering the US for ten years. As the child is not a qualifying relative for a waiver of this ground of inadmissibility, she would not be able to return to the US legally for ten years despite have a US citizen child over age 21.

Even if the parent had entered the US lawfully and/or were not subject to the ten-year ban, the adult child would still need to prove that he has enough income to support the parent(s) and himself at no less than 125% of the poverty level. Under the 2009 poverty guidelines, a person wanting to sponsor both parents would have to show he makes at least $22,887, an income level many 21-year-olds have trouble achieving. The child may seek a co-sponsor to help meet the income requirement, but even so, it's clear that legalizing one's parents takes more than the mere filing of papers. Every year many US citizens petition for their parents, but there is no indication that US-born children of illegal immigrants are filing a majority of parental petitions.

Simply put, the chain immigration claims lack substance. This is just another worn-out Republican scare tactic in a long line of right-wing attacks on immigration.