A thought for Sunday: the new 3/5’s Rule and plight of the DREAMers

by New deal democrat at Bondadd blog on Monday morning:

A thought for Sunday: the new 3/5’s Rule and plight of the DREAMers

The 3/5’s rule was one of the ugly compromises that had to be made in order to bring the slave-owning South into the Federal republic under the Constitution.  It stated:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excludingIndians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

Thus from 1789 until the Civil War, the rural South was overrepresented in the House of Representatives, and had extra influence in the Electoral College, because whites were able to “represent” African slaves.

This clause came to mind because of the acute crisis of 52,000 Latino children having been captured this year attempting to illegally cross the US border.  The 10 million+ illegal immigrants (or undocumented workers depending on your persuasion), for electoral purposes, are in the same situation as the antebellum African slaves.

After the Civil War Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment superseded the now-moot 3/5’s clause, providing:

“Representatives shall be apportioned …counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed…”

But now the influx of illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America has given rise to an entire new population whose have a similar lot.  Frozen out of citizenship, their numbers are nonetheless included in the population of states who get to send a disproportionate number of Representatives to Congress, in order to pass laws that, among other things, ensure that their lot can never change.

Let me say that I “get” both sides of this argument.  I fully appreciate that those who immigrate to the US illegally are queue-jumpers, they necessarily compete for low-wage jobs that might otherwise go to those who are here lawfully, and many may have no loyalty to the country where they have chosen to live.  On the other hand, I know a fair number of immigrants who have confided information to me such that I am virtually certain they did not immigrate lawfully.  They are hard workers, they want a better life for themselves and their children, and they want their children to be integrated into US society (and for what it’s worth most rooted for the USA in the World Cup either first or second).  This is the classic American immigrant dream.

Further, I “get” that the compromise behind the Immigration Reform Act of 1986 – amnesty for those already here, and tougher border enforcement to keep further illegal immigrants out – failed.  The law was asymmetric.  Once legalization happens, it is forever.  But enforcement to ensure that the problem does not repeat is a chronic and permanent commitment, which is likely not to be enforced in large part due to employer desires for cheap labor.

That being said, whatever the equities of an adult crossing into the US illegally, the same does not apply to a child who did not make the choice to immigrate, and for all intents and purposes, remembers no other home except the US, and feels every bit as much of an American kid as the great great great great grandchild of Irish, Italian, Jewish, or Japanese immigrants.

There is no statute of limitations on being deported.  Like murderers, who may commit the crime at age 18 and be convicted a lifetime later at 78, DREAMers – those young people who were brought here when they were young children, and know no other home – face a lifetime of fear and apprehension.  Now they are college students and young adults, but even decades from now when they are 40, 60, or 80 years old, having married, raised a family, and worked for a lifetime, they will never vest in the privileges of citizenship, benefit from retirement programs, and at any moment’s notice they will still be subject to arrest and deportation to a country where they were born but never really knew.  This is simply unconscionable.

Meanwhile, for those decades, those who want to deport them can claim their numbers for enhanced and unequal representation in Congress.

This is abhorrent now, just as the 3/5’s rule was abhorrent then.  Representation should be based on the population eligible to vote.

Further, simple humanity demands that there must be a Statute of Repose for the DREAMers.  After some period of time those who were brought to this country illegally when they were children, who know only the United States as their home, should – regardless of any “path to citizenship” – at the very least have the right to remain permanently without fear of deportation.