Wednesday, January 6, 2010

America to Oscar, others: we figured out a way to reward your good work and get you integrated, but we still haven't passed it

Scene reports on the status of the DREAM Act

The Nashville Scene recently reported on "Oscar," a Nashville high school student with the kind of immigration problem that can get him deported, and the DREAM Act, the kind of legislation that can fully integrate him into American society.

I recently met Oscar at a conference, and his leadership in one of the sessions impressed me. I found out afterwards about his immigration problem. It crushed me. The same thing had happened to me over and over again when my family and I attended the Primera Iglesia Bautista on Murfreesboro Road, when people I knew for months would come up to me about their own immigration problems once word got to them that I was a lawyer.

The sad reality was (and is) that there are few immigration problems that can be fixed. It's a dead end, for the most part.

Dedicated youth like Oscar who have no individual culpability for the fact that they don't have a visa deserve at least one chance to earn legal status. Many already demonstrate personal responsibility in the circumstances they can control, like their studies, and as in Oscar's case, in extracurricular activities as well, where leadership skills flourish. The DREAM Act would verify that these students have kept their noses clean and done everything that's been expected of them through the end of high school, and grant them legal status. It would no longer be a dead end.

Instead of wasting the beneficial America-child relationship that has been developing throughout their young lives, we should be realizing that these young immigrants are already assets - already "us" - and make sure our laws see them that way.

The DREAM Act is a wonderful start. The Scene story has more details about the law and about students like Oscar. Aunt B. also has an August post entitled "Kids Who Need the Dream Act," among others.

Getting the DREAM Act passed

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper told the Scene that a lot more work is needed to make the DREAM Act a reality:
"Right now the DREAM Act is a dream," he tells the Scene flatly. "And to turn that into reality is going to take a whole lot more work than anybody has put in so far."
Cooper adds that even if the DREAM Act passed in Congress, the Tennessee legislature would have to green-light portions of the legislation, mainly the question of whether to allow in-state tuition to undocumented students.
Well, at least one form of work to make the DREAM Act a reality is to contact our represented officials. Contact your U.S. representative at, and contact your U.S. senators at and (Remind Alexander and Corker that Republican Senator Orrin Hatch and Republican Senator Richard Lugar have been sponsors.)

In the House, Representative Steve Cohen is already a sponsor.

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