The Impossible DREAM Act
They know that for now, they are selling an impossible dream. Yet some Democrats in Congress keep promoting the DREAM Act, the elusive legislation that would create a path to legalization for some 2 million young undocumented immigrants who came here as children.
Under the current anti-immigrant climate and Republican-manipulated Congress, they know the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act has no chance of passing. Yet purely for political reasons, they keep using the DREAM Act as a tool to demonize the GOP.
And indeed, it is a powerful tool, because it shows that most Republicans in Congress can't even find compassion for undocumented immigrants who were brought here when they were too young to decide on their own, who have grown up here as Americans and who are eager to contribute to and serve this country.
But in the process of ridiculing Republicans for their Draconian ways, unfortunately some Democrats are building false hopes and expectations among an already vulnerable and distressed population of young immigrants.
For now, the DREAM Act is both a dream and an act. The students are dreaming, and the politicians are acting.
Don't get me wrong. I admire the dreamers. They are today's Don Quixotes, "willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause." But the actors are using these young undocumented immigrants for political gain — and inciting them to take unnecessary risks.
A few weeks ago, in the first Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for the latest resurrection of the DREAM Act, its leading champion, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and two top Obama administration officials argued that once these undocumented immigrant students are put on a path to legalization, they will pay taxes, buy homes and bolster the economy. They even cited the estimated $1.4 billion in deficit reduction that the DREAM Act would bring over the next decade.
"I ask my colleagues to consider the plight of these young people, who find themselves in a legal twilight zone through no fault of their own," Durbin said. "They are willing to serve our country, if we would only give them a chance."
This week, Durbin is joining religious leaders for a "DREAM Sabbath," which will "enlist churches, synagogues and mosques to dedicate time during their regular weekly worship service to a conversation about the DREAM Act."
But why now, when its chances are so dim? Why now if not for cheap politics?
Even one of the DREAM Act's biggest detractors, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, was right when he noted that the latest effort to resurrect the legislation has "all of the hallmarks of a cynical effort to use the hopes and dreams of these young people as a political wedge in the run-up to the 2012 election."
Of course, "cynical effort" also would be an appropriate way to describe Cornyn's participation at the hearing, where he reportedly pretended to favor immigration reform and then hypocritically proceeded to thrash the DREAM Act because "sadly, (it) does nothing to fix our broken immigration system.
In front of many young undocumented immigrants with outstanding civic records and academic credentials and ignoring the "moral character" standard that DREAM Act applicants would have to meet, Cornyn reportedly listed all the offenses — drug possession, burglary and assault — that (in his warped mind) would be overlooked.
It was the kind of two-faced, condescending and offensive demagoguery that makes young immigrants seek more dramatic action nowadays, some way of getting people to listen to their pleas for compassion.
Unfortunately, the false expectations and huge letdowns young undocumented immigrants have endured over the past decade already have driven some of them to risk getting arrested and deported and to take radical and defiant positions that could be counterproductive to their cause.
Frustrated and angered by so many years of rejection — of being told they have no future in the only country they know — some have held hunger strikes, outed themselves from the illegal immigration closet and placed themselves in jeopardy. Others have joined groups with defiant slogans — "Undocumented and Unafraid" — that only serve the anti-immigrant zealots who want to portray them as insubordinate hoodlums.
They should be asking for compassion instead of "demanding" anything. They should keep wearing their graduation caps and gowns to show the talent that this country senselessly is wasting, but not with a clinched fist. They should keep fighting for equality, but not the way some of them have been doing it lately.
Let's face it; though their struggle has many similarities with the civil rights movement, these are peaceful protesters who run the risk of getting deported. The politicians who claim to be trying to help them should not be building false hopes and thus inciting them to take unnecessary risks, especially at a time when they know the DREAM Act is only a pipe dream.
Have they forgotten that this is the same legislation they couldn't even pass during last year's lame-duck Congress and that now they are dealing with a much more anti-immigrant House and just-as-cowardly Senate? Did the Democrats forget that only seven months ago, they couldn't get six of their own senators to vote for the DREAM Act? What makes them think they can pass this bill now that the House has many more anti-immigrant members?
Whom are they kidding?
President Barack Obama has made clear that he doesn't want to see these young people deported, but he refuses to impose an executive order to halt the deportation of the immigrants who would be covered by the DREAM Act. Last month, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced it was encouraging agents to use "prosecutorial discretion" and give "particular care and consideration" to individuals "present in the United States since childhood" and seeking college degrees.
Though this is encouraging, it was clearly politically motivated, and it doesn't eliminate the huge risks these young people are taking when either the Republicans make them angry or the Democrats exploit their frustration.
To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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