the American Dream of un-American DREAMers

Crosspost from faithandimmigration.org.

Undocumented and Unafraid: the American Dream of un-American DREAMers

At the start of this year four immigrant college students from Miami-Dade County, Florida began a fifteen hundred mile journey across four months, “risking their future because the present is unbearable” (Felipe Matos, 23, in a New York Times interview).  Their ultimate destination is Washington, D.C. and their ultimate goal is the enactment of comprehensive immigration reform that would include the DREAM Act.  The DREAMERs (as recipients of this particular bill are called) are scheduled to arrive at the end of this month, where they will be joined by a New York contingent currently completing the 250 mile walk from New York to Washington, D.C.

President Obama voiced his support for this bill most memorably in a speech delivered to the National Council of La Raza as a presidential candidate in 2008, “The system isn’t working . . . when a young person at the top of her class — a young person with so much to offer this country — can’t attend a public college” (Washington Post).

    The DREAM Act is a narrowly tailored, bipartisan measure which would permit undocumented students to become permanent legal residents if they came here as children, are long-term U.S. residents, have good moral character, and attend college or enlist in the military for at least two years.  The DREAM Act would allow a generation of immigrant students with great potential and ambitions to contribute more fully to our society.  (Press Release from office of Senator Durbin)

Just today, Senators Durbin (D-IL) and Lugar (R-IN) sent a joint letter to Department of Homeland Security Napolitano asking for deferred action on the deportation of potential DREAM Act beneficiaries.  Currently, 15% of the undocumented population is compromised of children (or 1.8 million alien minors in 2006). 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school each year without access to federal and most private aid, and only qualify for in-state tuition in 10 states; as a result only 5% continue onto college.

This action comes in the wake of Arizona’s legislature passing SB1070, a bill Los Angeles Cardinal Mahony has decried as the “country’s most retrogressive, mean-spirited, and useless anti-immigrant law.” The bill “would make it a state crime for illegal immigrants to not have an alien registration document, require police to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are illegal immigrants” (CBS).

As a result, Arizona has become the epicenter of the immigration debate and the grassroots have responded.  Currently, the bill sits on the desk of Governor Brewer who has until Saturday to sign the bill. “As of Monday, the Governor’s Office had received 1,356 calls, e-mails and faxes in favor of SB 1070 and 11,931 against the bill” (AZ Central). During this past Saturday’s Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Black and White ball Gov. Brewer was asked to veto SB 1070 “in the name of fairness, humanitarianism, and for the sake of our state’s future economic prosperity and its diverse and growing community” (President of the chamber, Armando Contreras).

To be sure, the youth are making their presence felt in the current immigration debate. This past Tuesday nine college students were arrested as they chained themselves to the Arizona Capitol building in protest to SB1070. Responding to the recent letter one of the walkers, Carlos Roa, 22, who has lived in the U.S. since the age of two, stated, “the leadership of Senators Lugar and Durbin truly empower us as a youth movement.”  Adding to her fellow marcher’s comment Gabby Pacheco, 25, stated:

    Our dream is the opportunity to fully participate in U.S. society, but we cannot become the professionals we wish to be because we are undocumented . . . We have been waiting for years to speak up about our situation as immigrant students. President Obama, we cannot wait any longer, please don’t deport us from our home. (Trail of Dreams, Press Release)

The fourth walker is Juan Rodriguez, 20. Building on the current momentum, United We Dream, a coalition that has championed the DREAM Act during its 10 year existence, signed their petition to both Senators: “We can wait no longer. Be our champions, and ensure the passage of the DREAM Act this year. Change takes courage, and we are not afraid” (DREAM Act Petition).

Perhaps this was exactly the boost of energy that the campaign for comprehensive immigration reform needed. We hope that these actions can further move us toward the day when:

    The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. (Isaiah 11:6)

Please take action and support Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

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