A Crushed DREAM and Hopeful Youth

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The picture on the left is from the website of the Student Immigrant Movement (SIM), an migrant youth organization here in Massachusetts.  SIM is a big part of why Massachusetts is relatively pro-migrant compared to everywhere else in the U.S.  It is students like these that I keep in mind as I write this post.  Their undying hope is inspiring.  Just read the words of  Patricia De Oliveira:

As a student, I am not going to let these Senators decide my future. They will NOT take my future from me. We are going to fight until we have the right to an education. We are in this until we win. That’s the bottom line.

Still, the way their hopes were crushed yesterday, for at least a year, should force all migrant advocates ask some really hard questions.  This entry comes from someone that was on the front lines of recent DREAM activism.   I did everything in my power to move the DREAM Act forward.
Anti-Migrant Hate and Pro-Migrant Introspection

Make no mistake about it.  The DREAM Act, the hope of almost a million young people without a country, was crushed by anti-migrant hate.  Anti-migrant hate that has taken over the U.S. and is destroying the entire hemisphere.  It was incredible to see anti-migrant politicians take the defensive for the first time on this issue.  Many said they had nothing against these young people.  But their hypocritical votes said differently.  Irrational anti-migrant advocates have taken control of them.

Even though anti-migrant hate was the cause, it shouldn't prevent pro-migrant advocates from introspection.  I can't help but feel that putting hundreds of thousands of young people through yesterday's devastation should have been managed a little better.  There are inspiring messages of hope across the U.S. but I have also received emails and heard of several young migrants saying they've lost hope and are preparing to leave the country.

I say that knowing the opposition will probably say, "victory!" upon reading it, but the truth is it is a victory for the countries they are migrating to.  It would be a victory for Guatemala, the country spent 18 years of my life in, to receive just one of these talented young people.  In a country where most people don't get passed 6th grade, a high school education can go a long way towards doing some good.

Getting the DREAM Act on the Senate Floor

There is so much activism behind the DREAM Act, but it could be said that the it was the passion of one person for this cause that led to the Senate's vote yesterday.  Senator Richard J. Durbin, who's words I wrote an entire post about yesterday, used his power to get the DREAM Act on the floor.  For the first time in six years the DREAM Act was put before the floor of the U.S. Senate as stand alone legislation, to go forward or be left behind on its own merits.

Senator Durbin's words brought forth such valuable concepts into the public sphere.  Things I have been saying for a lifetime as a born global citizen.  Phrases like "kids without countries", "America is better than that", and "give these kids a chance", will echo through the halls of the U.S. Senate and across the nation for many years to come.  He had this to say in a conference call with some of us pro-migrant bloggers on Monday:

I learned about 6 or 7 years ago about a young woman in my state who came at the age of two from Korea, who's parents never filed papers, and couldn't pursue her dream of college education because of that.  I thought it was unfair.  And when I asked the immigration authorities they said she only had one recourse and that was return to Korea -- a place where she'd never lived, and to a language she didn't speak. 

That struck me as totally unfair.  When I looked beyond her case I found so many more -- hundreds of others.  Tomorrow's nurse and teachers, and scientists and engineers, people who are going to create business, and really make this a better country.  And they're asking only for a chance.  And I hope tomorrow we can bring the votes together to make that happen.
But Senator Durbin did not bring the votes together to make that happen and it's leaving many activists wondering why it was even brought forth in the first place.  Yesterday's cloture vote was a prayer.  That's all it was.  And some are even suggesting it was wrong to put hundreds of thousands of students through that roller-coaster ride of emotions and eventual defeat.

I know I was left questioning the tactics that were employed.  The DREAM Act was put on the floor almost as if there was reason to be ashamed of it.  Activists around the nation weren't notified of the need to act until only a couple days before the vote.  I think the reasoning was people didn't want the opposition to get a hold of it.

Basically, pro-migrant advocates and politicians were afraid.  But if the cloture vote was only going to be a prayer anyway, I would much rather have gone out swinging and marching on D.C.  It should have been a much larger campaign that would have forced Republicans into the position of voting against children yet again, as with the SCHIP vote.  The DREAM Act, more than any other legislation, exposes anti-migrant hate. 

But migrant rights isn't politically expedient for Democrats, right now.  It's the two-party system in action.

Anti-Migrant Opposition to the DREAM Act

Even though I constantly write about anti-migrant hate, I never cease to be surprised. When Senator Durbin held a press conference with migrant youth in support of the DREAM Act, Presidential Candidate Tom Tancredo sent out a press release advocating for an ICE raid on the event:

"I call on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency to detain any illegal aliens at this press conference.  Just because these illegal aliens are being used for political gain doesn't mean they get immunity from the law"
The New York Times had this to say about ICE's response:

A spokeswoman for the immigration agency, Kelly Nantel, confirmed that officials had received a letter from Mr. Tancredo and were reviewing it. She said the agency took no action yesterday.
Normally I would say this proves that anti-migrant advocates want anyone who disagrees with them deported.  That's true, and it's appalling.  It runs completely contrary to the idea of a free country.  But that's not even the most ridiculous thing about this. 

ALL OF THE YOUTH AT DURBIN'S PRESS CONFERENCE WERE LEGAL.  Tom Tancredo must have been getting his news from Lou Dobbs because he got his facts wrong, too.  According to Media Matters:

CNN's Lisa Sylvester reported that the bill's sponsors "held a news conference in the Capitol with illegal alien college students who'd benefit from the program," and that "[o]pponents demanded federal immigration officials to detain the illegal aliens."  However, several media outlets have reported that the three students featured at the press conference all have temporary legal status.
Every time I write about Tom Tancredo, people just argue he's an extremist and that his views shouldn't be paid attention to.  But, I don't know how people can dismiss his views when he's running for the highest office in the U.S.  Even worse this horrendous error and prejudice extends to Lou Dobbs as well.  This is worse than Dobbs' leprosy gaff.  Still, all of this isn't as disheartening as the White House's opposition to the DREAM Act.

According to the Associated Press, the Bush Administration had this to say in a press statement:

While sympathetic to children brought into the country illegally by their parents, the White House said in a statement the bill falls short by "creating a special path to citizenship that is unavailable to other prospective immigrants — including young people whose parents respected the nation's immigration laws."
The White House has now been frightened down the anti-migrant line.  Just a year ago Bush said this in a prime time speech:

We cannot build a unified country by inciting people to anger, or playing on anyone’s fears, or exploiting the issue of immigration for political gain. We must always remember that real lives will be affected by our debates and decisions, and that every human being has dignity and value no matter what their citizenship papers say.
I can't help but feel that the Bush administration used this for "political gain".  Anything to keep the Iraq war going.

In addition to these developments, the usual suspects beat their amnesty drums.  I wonder when people are going to wake up to who these anti-migrant leaders are doing to the world.

Moving Forward in the Fight for Migrant Rights

I've gone on for a long time on this post, but I really felt as though someone had to write something comprehensive on the failure of the DREAM Act, and try to ask the right questions of pro-migrant advocates. 

Whether we choose to pat ourselves on the back or not, we have to look ourselves in the mirror and own up to the fact that some immigrant youth have given up hope and decided to leave the country because of our failure.  It's the U.S.'s loss.

There is hope, though, and I see it in the eyes of migrant youth, and the people all across the nation and the world that came out in support of this bill. 

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10 Comments

kyledeb said:

This is cross-posted at Daily Kos and Blue Mass. Group.

yave begnet said:

Thanks for your thoughts, Kyle. Thanks to all the students and advocates who worked to get the bill brought to the Senate floor. It really is tragic that their dream has been deferred again. I have to hope this is the darkest point before the light, that the political dynamic will change with the election next year. But it won't come easy, and it's small comfort right now.

kyledeb said:

Always great to hear from you yave. The good news is that the vote in the senate was a lot closer than it actually looked. Because the DREAM Act was voted on by itself a majority of the senate is on record as having came out in favor of it and four senators in favor of the DREAM Act weren't present.

The big obstacle, of course, is the nativist house of representatives, but the DREAM Act isn't out for the count yet.

kyledeb said:

Just wanted to point out that Too Sense and XP have written two excellent posts on the DREAM Act.

Changeseeker said:

I am SO glad to see this so beautifully handled, kyledeb. I was really disheartened by the announcement that the DREAM Act was voted down. I'm going to link to this in a blog later today.

And as for your new blog: I would beat on Nezua's blog door myself if I could afford him. This looks WONDERFUL. Good for you. You work hard and you deserve this fancy new "home."

kyledeb said:

Always good to hear from you changeseeker. Trust me it wasn't easy to afford, Nez, but it's definitely one of the best investments that I've ever made in my life. I can't recommend that you start saving up enough.

Frances Nolivos said:

Dear Kyle,

Your words and Patricia's make me think that there is a revolution in progress. Our youth will not stay silent. If we adults don't call it like it is, our youth will. Congratulations Kyle and keep up the awakening job.

kyledeb said:

Always great to hear from you Frances, and it's good to see your first comment up on this blog. You're definitely someone that's standing with migrant youth and calling it like it is. Keep up the good work.

Marsel Kuka said:

hey, I came to the U.S when I was 10, now I'm a freshman at Kingsborough College. Ive been ordered deportation and awaiting my final 2 months before they force me out. I haven't done anything wrong, neither did my parents, came here legally and have been paying taxes for 9 years. I was really waiting for this bill to be passed.. I feel like pulling my hair sometimes when I read some comments that ignorants write. I WISH YOU ALL LUCK AND HOPEFULLY SOMETHING WILL HAPPEN, DON'T LOSE HOPE!

kyledeb Author Profile Page said:

Thank you for your message of hope in this difficult time Marsel. I wish you the best of luck, and let us know if there's anything we can do to help with your situation. Yave has written an excellent post on legal resources for migrants that you're welcome to peruse.

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This page contains a single entry by kyledeb published on October 25, 2007 11:43 AM.

"America is Better Than That"?: Senator Durbin on the DREAM Act was the previous entry in this blog.

Burma Orange: A Stain on the Earth's Conscience is the next entry in this blog.

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