Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nashville youth give back at Thanksgiving, yearn for DREAM Act

The Nashville Scene's Pith in the Wind blog covered last week's Thanksgiving DREAM Act rally by Tennessee youth who have been outstanding in every way but aren't allowed to give back to the country they grew up in, due to an immigration status over which they had no control.

Steve Haruch covered the young people's collection of food for the needy, and Betsy Phillips remarked on the uphill battle for the legislative fix these kids are hoping for.

From the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition:
“We are optimistic for a brighter future in which we will be fully accepted as what we already are, true Americans,” said Karla, a DREAM student. “We study hard, are honest and are active in our community. Like true pilgrims, we have the energy, the talent and the desire to give back in full to the country that raised us.”

These new pilgrims, brought to this country as minors by their parents, spoke about their desire to further their education and become contributing citizens of this country, the only home many of them know. They asked Senators Corker and Alexander to support the DREAM Act, which will be reintroduced in the following days in the Congress of the US. This piece of legislation, first presented in 2001, would allow thousands of undocumented young students to attend college, gain legal status and become productive members of our nation.
WPLN reported in September that Senators Alexander and Corker say the Dream Act needs to be a stand-alone bill with its own debate, but when the Dream Act does come up this week, watch them filibuster it, to prevent the debate and (as a result) the vote of the majority. (Why the Senate doesn't just force them to talk for hours on end about these deserving students, until they tire and the filibuster is broken, is beyond me.)

As for the substance of the DREAM Act, it's a lite version of immigration bankruptcy: a qualifying applicant would get a fresh start in exchange for proving good behavior and making certain future commitments. The DREAM Act is for kids only.

As I've said before, dedicated youth who have no individual culpability for the fact that they don't have a visa deserve at least one chance to earn legal status. It's for those who demonstrate personal responsibility in the circumstances they can control, like their studies and extracurricular activities. Instead of wasting the beneficial America-child relationship that has been developing throughout their young lives, we should be realizing that these people are already our assets - already "us" - and we must make sure our laws see them that way.

The status quo, by contrast, constitutes a blockade to our high performers. By doing nothing, we have accidentally embraced the concepts of the doomsday clock and the misery strategy, even though you'd prefer the DREAM Act every time in a blind taste test. To those skeptics who would embrace doomsday and misery as "sticks" to use against parents, consider how inconsistent it is to withhold support for the DREAM Act. You can't be in favor of the sticks for the parents but offer no "carrot" to the kids for their good behavior here. (If you're still not convinced, go back and look at the immigration bankruptcy concept, which addresses your concerns about lawbreaking.)

To those who are convinced, you can take action in favor of the DREAM Act by visiting www.dreamactivist.org - and from there, you can contact your legislators.

For previous posts on HispanicNashville.com about the DREAM Act (going back to 2004!), click here.

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