Sunday, November 22, 2009


Most reports I have read claim nearly two million undocumented immigrant children live in the US today. They are children who were born outside the U.S. but raised in this country and whose parents, for one reason or another, are not documented. Of these, about 65,000 undocumented immigrant students graduate from high school each year without proper documents of citizenship or a green card that would allow them to remain and work legally in the United States. Therefore, when they graduate from high school, without the ability to acquire a visa or green card, their future in this country is at jeopardy: they cannot work, go to college, or drive a car. These highly motivated individuals lived in the United States all or most of their lives and want nothing more than to be recognized as American citizens.

They and their parents have contributed to their community, church, paid their taxes, and other than the illegality of their residence, have obeyed our laws. Many of these students have participated in school clubs and sports teams, and are often working to help support their families.

After years of residency in the United States, why should these parents and their children not be provided with an appropriate path to citizenship? They would not have been allowed to take up residency if it were not for America’s acquiescence and an inability to make up our mind about immigration policy.

Many Americans who read this will say that they are not good citizens; most are here to take advantage of our welfare system; they are criminals, or otherwise here for some other nefarious reason.

I say we have laws, if enforced, to control and prosecute these abuses. And, the immigrants who commit these abuses are not in the majority. If we have laws to prosecute criminality, why are there not laws to protect immigrants who have, other than their illegality because of our complicity, behaved and obeyed our laws?

It’s interesting that the United States allows people with the following status to obtain a Green Card without labor certification and yet will deport young people after we have paid for their education:

Aliens of Extraordinary Ability in Business, Sciences, Arts, Education, or Athletics

Outstanding Professors/Researchers

International Executives/Managers

Exceptional Ability in the Sciences, Arts, Business with a "National Interest Waiver"

Registered Physical Therapists

Registered Professional Nurses

There is a documentary entitled Papers, directed by Anne Galisky of Graham Street Productions, which addresses the story of undocumented youth and the challenges they face as they turn 18.

CNN’s Rick Sanchez in his segment called Conexion interviews Anne Galisky and Walter Lara who is one of the students presented in the movie, Papers.

Enter the DREAM Act (the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act}, a piece of proposed federal legislation, similar to previous proposals introduced in 2001, and then again in 2007, that was reintroduced in the congress on March 26, 2009. The bill would provide certain undocumented immigrant students who graduate from US high schools, who are of good moral character, the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency.

The DREAM Act is not about giving special treatment to immigrant students/benefits that American kids don’t get; it is not a free pass -- in order to benefit from the legislation students must work hard, graduate from high school and attend college or join the military; and, immigrant students are not taking resources away -- it will increase the educational attainment of our youth, thereby increasing the amount of taxes they pay towards safety-net programs such as Social Security and Medicare..

However, it is about the fact that we have already invested in the education of these students. Therefore, we should allow them to reach their full potential and contribute to our society. And it is about equal opportunity: undocumented students work just as hard as their U.S.-born classmates, but they do not have the same opportunities.

These young people were brought to the United States as children; they did not partake in the decision to come here; they had no control over the economic conditions in the countries that forced their parents to come here.

The DREAM Act’s only purpose is to ensure that no undocumented graduating student is denied their dream of having a better life in America if they’re willing to work for it.