The Dream Act

Update (from DreamActivist.org:
SENATE DOES NOT MOVE FORWARD WITH DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION BILL- DREAM ACT LEFT IN LIMBO  Today, the Senate chose not to move forward with discussion of the Defense Authorization Bill, which means that the Senate did not have the opportunity to add the DREAM Act as an amendment. 

We are disappointed with the politicization of an issue that is clearly about education, hard work, and sacrifice. While we are well aware it is an election year, we are not interested in our lives being manipulated as politicians make token demonstrations of support in order to win political points.

We would like to honor the wishes of the members who invoked procedure over the issues and call for Senator Harry Reid to offer the DREAM Act as a stand-alone bill.  He has repeatedly stated his commitment to the DREAM Act, as has President Obama, and has reiterated time and time again that it is necessary and timely legislation.  The DREAM Act is a truly American standard of reform based on hard work, sacrifice, and education, and we are confident we will pass this necessary piece of legislation before the congressional year is over.  Now is the time for this country’s leaders to do what is right, and invest in America’s future.
Act now! Dial: 1-202-224-3121 and ask to speak with Senator Reid from NV: “Hi I am calling to ask that senator Reid stop playing politics with the DREAM Act. I am calling to ask that he immediately bring it up for a vote. Thank you.”

One child is “legal” the other child is “illegal.” 

This Tuesday, a marvelous piece of humanitarian relief for children will be considered by the United States Senate. This relief is not intended for the children of the Sudan, nor for the children of the flooded plains of Pakistan nor those  children living on the streets of Port au Prince in Haiti. Ojalá que fuera así, but perhaps in another moment.

This particular legislative action, however, is no small thing.  It is an offer of relief for over a million children, young people who live in our own communities here in the United States. Many of them attend our neighborhood schools and local colleges, and worship alongside us on Sundays.

The wrong that this act addresses and seeks to fix is the nightmarish situation of children who, over the past two decades, were brought to the US by their parents. The parents over stayed the time granted them by their visas or perhaps entered the country without being documented properly. The children–who had no say in the decision of their parents to immigrate–now live in the United States illegally. 

Four sets of dreams; two of them to be deferred, unless the Dream Act is passed
I use the term “illegally” intentionally, for although there is no moral or ethical reason for blaming the children for their immigration status, the loudmouths and knuckleheads who populate our nation’s airwaves are busy demonizing them. In these peoples’ minds, these children are somehow “criminals” who “should not be awarded for their crimes.”  As if there was malevolence in these children’s hearts. As if they were even capable of such “illegality” at the time that a mom or a dad packed them up and took them to the United States.
The children, especially as they become young men and women, however, know what it is to live as if one were “illegal.” To worry, constantly, that they might be picked up by the Border Patrol and sent to a country about which they have only studied. To know that however hard you might work at your studies, that it might all be in vain. To live with the crushing anxiety of being “neither here nor there.” And to have to keep that a secret.
For a decade now, national congressional leaders have proposed to right this wrong, to extend to these young people a hope and a homeland. The appropriately named “Dream Act” was sponsored by Senator McCain and has had the support of a plethora of both Democrats and Republicans.  It has failed in the past because it was made a part of the larger immigration reform efforts. This time around, however, the Dream Act is being attached to the Defense Department’s budget.
I ask you to join my prayer that this time the Senate gets it right and votes to add the Dream Act to our nation’s legacy, thus creating a pathway to legal residence for those young people who are our modern men and women “without a country.”
There are some conditions to the bill, namely, that the young people be of good character and either enroll in college or enlist in the military (thus the Defense Department’s interest).
On Tuesday, the Senate is taking a vote on whether to add the Dream Act to this bill, which would create a pathway to legal residence for those children who were brought to the USA by their parents. Should that happen, in my community alone, 10,000 children and their families will break out dancing and singing. With that vote, these young people will be recognized for what they know they are–members of our communities. 
They have all grown up here. They have all been educated here. Every school day morning they have stood before the American flag and made the pledge of allegiance. They read and write and speak English; they dream dreams of what they will do when they grow up. But until the Dream Act passes, they remain in hiding, hostages to the decisions that someone else made some time ago.
Should the Dream Act pass, the lovely Claudia, a student who finished college with straight A’s and simply wants to teach grade school could apply for a job as a teacher.  Our schools need Claudia in the worst way.
Should the Dream Act pass, Eric, an extraordinary young man with a burning desire to study medicine would in fact be able to continue his studies. Eric tells me that he would simply like to be a family practice physician. “I like to help people,” he says, “that’s all I ask, is to be able to help people.”
For the Dream Act to pass, however, our Senators are going to need some encouragement.
Please call one or more of those listed below.
Here are the steps:
Dial: 1-888-254-5087
Ask for the following people and leave a message with their office.
Call-in Script:
“Hi I am calling to ask that Senator _______ vote for the DREAM Act.This bill will allow for undocumented youth to fix their status by serving this country in the armed services in addition to allowing for them to return the investment our country has made in them. Please have the member support the dream act.”
Republicans:
Sen. Hatch of Utah
Sen. Bunning of Kentucky
Sen. Bennet of Utah
Sen. Gregg of New Hampshire
Sen. Bailey-Hutchison of Texas
Sen. McCain of Arizona
Sen. Voinovich of Ohio
Sen. Snowe of Maine
Sen. Collins of Maine
Sen. LeMeiux of Florida
Sen. Brownback of Kansas
Democrats:
Sen. Hagan of North Carolina
Sen. Pryor of Arkansas
Sen. Landrieu of Louisiana
Sen. Conrad of North Dakota
Sen. Dorgan of North Dakota
Sen. Nelson of Florida
Sen. Baucus of Montana
Sen. Tester of Montana
Sen. Feinstein of California

Resistance

In the early morning light I pick up Barry Lopez’s novel “Resistance”, and turn to a new chapter. The first line reads “I watched my best efforts turn to coal.”  That is as far as I get, for the news this week is overwhelming, and the violence close at hand.  
On this morning it does indeed seem that some of the best efforts in our world are turning to coal, the bright colors that mark life and goodness fading to dark grey and black under the continual onslaught of a violence inspired by diabolical greed.
Seventy-two Central and South American immigrants were found massacred in San Fernando, a small ranching town just a couple of hours drive from my Brownsville home. 
According to the lone survivor, they were murdered by the Zetas, a group of criminals that feeds America’s drug habit, profits richly in human trafficking, and works tirelessly to organize evildoing in northeast Mexico.
Laurie Freeman reports in “State of Siege” (wilsoncenter.org/news/docs/State_of_Siege_WOLA.pdf) that the founding members of the Zetas were originally part of a Mexican special forces group, some of whom trained at Fort Benning and Fort Bragg. They were to be the stars in the fight against drug trafficking in Mexico. The Mexican Gulf drug cartel, though, soon bought off these well-trained soldiers.  In time, the Zetas, having already betrayed their nation, turned on their new sponsors and re-organized themselves into their own mafia.  The Zetas celebrate the terror that they breed, launching hand grenades in quiet city plazas and setting off car bombs to announce their presence. They also routinely kidnap, torture, and kill Central American immigrants who cross their territory as they head north.
Several hundred miles to the south, however, men and women continue to make the decision to migrate north. There is no work, and there is no way to feed the family. Today the newpapers reported a conversation with a man getting ready to cross into the Arizona desert. “I know that I am risking death; but in my home village, I am already living in a coffin. At least there is hope for something in the north.” 
The migrants know of the kidnappings and torture that await them.  Women reportedly begin birth control months before they leave, knowing of the near inevitability of rape (http://borderlines.weebly.com/).  Desperation inspires in the men an unknown courage. I imagine that they must taste the ashes of their hope even as they take their first steps north.
The hopes of the seventy-two men and women who were killed in San Fernando have turned to coal. The killers did not bother to bury them; their faces were not even covered.
Because I remain a believer, I am anguished as I wonder, “Where is the light in this?” 
I read other reports and discover that the migrants were killed, according to this witness, because they refused to join the Zetas and work for them as assassins.
“Kill or be killed,” they must have been told. And under a blazing August sun, so many miles from their loved ones, with their lives in their hands, literally, one by one they refuse this sordid offer of hope. 
These men and women, powerless in every sense of the word, resisted.
They resisted even that most basic form of greed, the desire to live. They resisted despite the horrible clarity of the consequences of that resistance.
They said no, surely with quaking knees, and anguish in their souls.
They resisted.
I refuse to draw a lesson from this; I just note that only a few hours south of my home, just this past week,  seventy –two people stood strong.
That is something to consider.
“They stripped away our fruit, they cut our branches, they burned our trunk, but they could not kill our roots.”