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DREAM deferred

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Even the literalists of the Religious Right seldom quote Exodus 20:5 approvingly. Though they presumably agree with the sentiment, they know that the idea of punishing children for the sins of their fathers is repugnant to most people. Un-American, one might say.

And so the opponents of the DREAM Act find other words to justify their opposition. They say they're against "amnesty" for "illegal aliens," rather than admit they're for cruelty to kids.

Sen. Mark Pryor goes along with this sophistry, and because of Pryor and other senators like him, the DREAM Act likely won't pass in this session of Congress, which is likely the last chance for several years to come. (Well, those other senators blocking passage of the bill aren't exactly like Pryor. They're Republicans. Being mean is how they roll. Pryor is nominally a member of a party that still tolerates the occasional kindness. He's ignoble on his own initiative.)

The DREAM Act would provide a way to make legal Americans out of hundreds of thousands of young people who are now considered illegal, not because of anything they did but because their parents brought them here without papers when they were small children. Because of their illegality, they are denied the benefits of American citizenship, and are subject to prosecution and expulsion no matter how hard they work or study, no matter how much they enhance their community and their country. And the USA is definitely their country. They grew up here, graduated from high school here. English is their language.

The DREAM act would allow illegal aliens who were brought to the USA as children to gain legal status by enrolling in college or joining the military. The bill would benefit the country almost as much as the individuals. More people with higher education means greater prosperity, studies show, and the armed forces, now reliant on volunteers, need a bigger pool of man- and womanpower to draw from.

The DREAM Act passed the House of Representatives, helped by a vote from Rep. Vic Snyder, one of the last of many enlightened votes he's cast in his 14 years in office. Often, as here, his was the only enlightened vote in the Arkansas House delegation. Reps. John Boozman and Mike Ross voted against the DREAM Act. Rep. Marion Berry, who, like Snyder, will leave office in January, didn't bother to vote. An aide said he had social engagements.

Pryor doesn't have to run again for four years, time to try to make up for his dereliction on the DREAM Act. Not enough time, probably. He never does right impetuously.

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