For most of us, the place where we grew up – more so than the place we were born – holds a special place in our hearts. It’s the place we think of when we think ‘home.’ We don’t get to choose where we grow up, any more than we get to choose what family we are born into. But we love our hometowns, just like we love our families, even when they don’t always treat us right.
The children of undocumented immigrants didn’t have a choice in where they would grow up. Their parents made the decision for them. But most children of undocumented immigrants who grow up in the U.S. love their hometowns and this country, even though we don’t treat them right.
What is the DREAM Act?
The DREAM Act would give children of undocumented immigrants who grew up in the U.S. a chance to earn legal resident status in the country that means home to them. First, the law would allow a young person, after completing high school, to apply for “conditional permanent resident status.”
This status would allow the law-abiding son or daughter of undocumented immigrants to work, go to school, get a driver’s license, and go about his or her daily life without fear of being picked up and deported to a land they may not remember. Second, a young person with conditional residency who completes two years of college or a vocational program, or serves two years in the U.S. military, would qualify for unrestricted permanent resident status.
This is legislation that makes sense. It’s only a small step towards immigration reform, but it’s the least we can do for young people who consider themselves part of our family.
Who’s for the DREAM Act?
Public support for the DREAM Act is high, and it’s bipartisan. According to a poll commissioned by child advocacy group First Focus, it’s around 70%. President Obama supports it. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Black Caucus, and Asian Pacific American Caucus support it. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, former Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera, and former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Colin Powell support it. The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association support it, as do a vast number of universities, such as Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, Columbia, and Stanford.
Who’s against the DREAM Act, and why?
This bill has been around, in one form or another, since 2001. It’s a bi-partisan bill that’s almost passed several times. But now, Republicans who supported the bill in the past are backing away from it because the Tea Party is opposed to it. In fact, several incoming Tea-Party backed Republicans not only oppose the DREAM Act, but want to introduce a bill to change the Constitution to deny citizenship to children born in the U.S. of undocumented immigrants.
The Tea Party is riling up their base to fight the DREAM Act and any legislation that would provide a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants. They characterize the DREAM Act as an attempt to “steal” citizenship. They are playing on racist fears, labeling undocumented immigrants AND their children as criminals who only want to import drugs and commit rape and murder on (white) American citizens. And of course, they are very vocal in denying that their motivation is racist.
Why is it urgent to pass the DREAM Act now?
During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised the Hispanic community that he would work for passage of the DREAM Act and for immigration reform. But as the 2010 election cycle approached with no progress on this or any measures toward immigration reform, the Hispanic community very rightly began to remind the President of his promise. Why should we support Democratic candidates, many asked, when the Democratic party has not shown that they are willing to work on issues that matter to us?
President Obama reached out to ask for the trust of the Hispanic community, and pledged that the DREAM Act would come to a vote before the end of this year. Sen. Harry Reid made the same promise to his constituents in Nevada, and it’s well-acknowledged that it was the Hispanic vote that saved his Senate seat, and saved the Democratic majority in the Senate. So it’s not just President Obama and Sen. Reid that owe it to the Hispanic community to pass this bill. We ALL have an obligation.
And it’s in our best interest.
The Democratic Party needs Hispanic voters, and needs to show the Hispanic community that we are not just talk. We need to show them that we deserve their trust, their support, and their votes. Passing the DREAM Act would also send an important message to the next Congress, that unlike the party of NO, the Democrats still know how to get the business of our country done.
It will increase the power of the President and Congressional Democrats. It will make it easier to defend the attacks on Health Care Reform, to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, to end tax cuts for millionaires, to extend unemployment benefits, and to pass legislation on the environment, job creation, and educational reform.
How can we help?
Tell President Obama and your Congressmen of BOTH parties that you support the DREAM Act. Tell them that law-abiding children of undocumented immigrants shouldn’t have to live in daily fear of being picked up and deported. Tell them that motivated, and educated young people are assets to our country, and deserve an opportunity for legal status. And tell them now, because the DREAM Act may come to vote in the House this week.
Want to know more?
Janice Mowrey is a Navy veteran, a mother, and a proud liberal. She has lived in many places but most significantly Washington DC, Augusta GA, Karlsruhe Germany, Pasadena CA, and Tidewater VA. She now resides in Chicago IL, where she works to save the homes of working families facing foreclosure. Janice is an unabashed supporter of President Barack Obama. She blogs about race relations and racial justice at worldwithoutracism.org.