Courtesy of the New York Times Editorial Board.
Four young immigrant students risked everything on Monday when they sat down in Senator John McCainâ€™s office in Tucson and refused to leave. They were urging passage of the Dream Act, a bill offering a citizenship path to illegal immigrants who, like them, were brought to the United States as children, too young to have willfully broken the law.
For the undocumented, any encounter with law enforcement is perilous â€” especially in Arizona, where a new law pushes the hunt for illegal immigrants beyond the limits of reason, proportion and the Constitution.
Three of the student protesters were arrested for misdemeanor trespassing. Though later freed, they faced the risk of prison and deportation to press for a bill.
Who else has shown such courage in the long struggle for immigration reform? Not Mr. McCain, who ditched his principled support of rational immigration legislation to better his odds in a close re-election campaign against a far-right-wing opponent. Not President Obama, who has retreated to lip service and vagueness in his calls for reform. Not his administration. The Justice Department has stood by as a civil-rights coalition â€” the American Civil Liberties Union, Maldef, the N.A.A.C.P., the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and others â€” has swiftly sued to block the Arizona law.
Other supposed defenders of immigrants, Democrats in Congress, have lost their voices. Senators Charles Schumer, Robert Menendez and Harry Reid, mindful of November elections and frustrated Latino voters, have unveiled a blueprint for immigration reform that parrots Republican talking points about clamping down the southern border and treating the undocumented as a swelling tide of criminals.
Good immigration reform needs a good bill, and the administration and the president and Democratic leaders havenâ€™t yet offered or convincingly fought for one. The fight for reform is stalled. It could be simple acts of protest that ignite a fire. Half a century ago it was young people, at lunch counters and aboard buses across the South, who help galvanize the movement for civil rights, and to waken more powerful elders to injustice.
The disobedient students in Arizona, and four others who walked to Washington from Florida this spring to press for the Dream Act, want the opportunity that others take for granted: the chance to earn college degrees, to forge better lives, to fulfill their potential in their home country. These are dreams that to them are well worth the risk.