IN MY OPINION

‘Dream 9’ ploy could backfire on immigration seekers

 
 
GARVIN
GARVIN

ggarvin@MiamiHerald.com

As somebody who’s written a good bit on the subject, I used to go pretty regularly to panel discussions on immigration. After a while, I stopped, because I wasn’t learning anything, and the panelists on both sides infuriated me.

The anti-immigration advocates frequently trafficked in outlandish, racist urban myths about lazy welfare queens and sinister plots to undermine American culture. But the pro-immigration folks weren’t much better. By arguing incessantly for the expansion of programs like food stamps or federal assistance to needy families, they played right into their opponents’ absurd caricatures of immigrants as freeloaders in search of streets paved with welfare gold.

The pro-immigration advocates undercut the best argument for immigration: that it brings young, ambitious people to our country, who mostly do jobs too poorly paid and too backbreaking to interest Americans. But the idea that immigrants are willing to work hard and make sacrifices in order to give their children a shot at a better life sounds a little too much like the American Dream, which progressives long ago decided was a delusionary cliché. They won’t go anywhere near it.

My belief that progressives are the biggest enemies of their own cause when it comes to immigration has only grown stronger over the past month as I watch the antics of the activists who call themselves the Dream 9.

Five women and four men whose parents brought them into the United States illegally when they were small children, the Dream 9 returned to Mexico earlier this summer, then returned to the border at Nogales, Ariz., demanding political asylum on the grounds that they have “a credible fear of persecution or torture” in Mexico.

Their claim was obviously a political stunt to embarrass the Obama administration — they could have requested asylum without leaving the United States, and surely would have if they really thought they’d have their fingernails pulled out in Mexico. And the ploy worked. Two weeks later, they were released into the United States on parole while their cases wind through the serpentine system of U.S. immigration courts, which could take years.

That sounds clever. But it may prove incredibly destructive. Over the weekend, a Phoenix television station reported that some 200 people showed up at the border crossing in Otay Mesa, Calif., in a single day, asking for political asylum, all spouting the golden phrase “credible fear.” So many have followed that the Immigration and Custom Enforcement detention center has been overwhelmed, and the asylum-seekers are being put up in $100-a-night hotel rooms.

You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to suspect that there’s some coaching involved.

If the Otay Mesa asylum claims continue and spread, a lot of people are going to be hurt, starting with the immigrants themselves. The Dream 9, operating in the world media spotlight and backed by an army of immigration lawyers, got out of detention almost immediately. Non-celebrity asylum applicants don’t walk that red carpet.

It will typically take them months to even get their first interview with an immigration officer, and the entire asylum process can stretch out for years. Some applicants — those with good lawyers, along with provable family ties or money to post a sizable bond — will be released on parole. Others will languish the entire time in an immigration lockup that feels pretty much like prison.

“There are exceptions, but usually, a facility where asylum applicants wait will look like a jail,” says Tiffany Lynch, a senior policy analyst at the United States Council on International Religious Freedom, who authored a chilling report earlier this year on the detention of asylum-seekers. “You have barbed wire. You’re escorted everywhere you go. You wear, basically, a prison uniform, and you get maybe one hour of outdoor recreational time a day.”

Maybe, just maybe, that’s worth admission to the United States. But most asylum applicants will never get their ticket. Of the 86,053 people who asked for asylum last year, only about 29 percent received it. That percentage is bound to fall even further if a wave of phony claims hits the American border.

In effect, the Dream 9 are encouraging other immigrants to play a game of Russian roulette with their lives, gambling at long odds that serving time in an immigration jail will get them into the United States. It’s a bad bet.

Meanwhile, the entire institution of political asylum will fall under withering and skeptical scrutiny not just by immigration officials, but American voters. And how can this possibly be good for the chances of the immigration-reform bill under consideration in Congress? For a lot of people, those nine activists are less likely to be remembered as a dream than a nightmare.

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald

  • CONGRESS

    Senators earn an ‘A’ for sexual assault bill

    Sen. Marco Rubio doesn’t have much time for Democrats. But he does have two daughters. And so it was that Wednesday morning, he found himself standing in solidarity with a bipartisan group of senators that included Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill as they announced legislation to curb the scourge of sexual assault on U.S. campuses.

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">HARASSMENT:</span> Members of the Ladies in White opposition movement, relatives of imprisoned dissidents who draw inspiration from their faith, were arrested during a peaceful march in Havana last month.

    HUMAN RIGHTS

    Support religious freedom in Cuba

    This year marks the 55th anniversary of Cuba’s current government and July 26 commemorated the 61st anniversary of the revolution which swept it into power. After coming to power, the Castro government broke its pro-democracy pledges and, despite recent improvements, maintains a problematic record on human rights, including religious freedom.

  •  
SOLOW

    MIGRANT CRISIS

    Easy fix to offer relief to immigration courts

    Much has been written about the strain placed on the immigration court system by the recent influx of minors from Central America. A little known fact about the Immigration Court system, unlike every court in the land, virtually no immigration court cases are resolved without a hearing.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category