Linda Chavez

Alabama legislators, for example, are considering re-writing their new law. Deemed the toughest in the nation, the Alabama law makes it mandatory for everyone in the state -- including native-born Alabamans -- to show proof of citizenship before they can get their license plates renewed, get their garbage collected by the city, renew their business licenses or engage in any other government transactions. "The longer this bill has been out, the more unintended consequences we have found," GOP state senator Slade Blackwell told The New York Times this week. "All of us realize we need to change it."

If Republicans were smart, they'd embrace the new Obama rules as a practical way to clear the backlog of deportations by focusing on actual criminals. They'd also be wise to create a path to legalization for those who came here as children and who have lived exemplary lives since.

Thousands of illegal immigrants -- some of whom came as infants-in-arms -- are living in a shadow-world in which they can graduate from high school at taxpayer expense but cannot legally be employed, obtain a drivers license or travel by plane. These individuals have no "home" to go back to. They are de facto Americans who are deprived of the right and responsibility to work, pay taxes, serve in the military and contribute their talents to the communities in which they live. Punishing these individuals does almost as much harm to the rest of us as it does to them.

The Obama administration may be cynically using its new rules for political advantage, but Republicans could turn the issue on its head by embracing a new Dream Act to grant legal status to illegal immigrants who come here as children and complete college or enter the military. It wasn't all that long ago that conservative Republicans like Senators Orrin Hatch, Jon Kyl, Charles Grassley, Lindsey Graham and John Cornyn supported the Dream Act. It's not only the smart political move for Republicans to do so again -- it's also the right thing to do.

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .

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