Duke on the DREAM Act
From the keyboard of the online champion of progressive immigration reform. Thanks for stopping by, Duke. It's a privilege to have your words grace these pages.
The military component of the DREAM act is as close to a deal-breaker as anything yet introduced under the guise of immigration reform. It's mired in cynicism and intended, as XP so eloquently stated in his posts, to further exploit in the worst possible way those who have been marginalized to such an extent, that in desperation they would willingly sacrifice everything…even their lives.
It is a fact that most of the support for this bill coming from the Republican right is based entirely upon the military component. And it is also correct that the military itself has lobbied for its passage.
And this creates, as have all the other immigration reform proposals thus far, a great crisis of conscience for anyone who actually cares about real reform and the people it's intended to help. How much evil are we willing to accept in compromise in order to achieve some good?
But unlike past bills, with their mix of restrictive policies, harsh enforcement, exploitive guestworker program, etc. this bill goes even further. It actually asks us to accept something that runs absolutely contrary to our core belief system .. it asks us to allow young men and women to be used as cannon fodder in an immoral war in return for acceptance into society. … and when framed as such our choice appears to be obvious…. the facts that have been presented against this bill based upon this crisis of conscience are irrefutable and cannot be denied.
If placed upon a scale, the current statistics clearly show that the costs paid, would far outweigh the benefits. XP is right that given the current miserable state of education in predominately Latino schools, and a drop-out rate of over 50% amongst undocumented children (22.4% for all Latinos, 14% for native-born Latinos) there is a hopelessness that will make the prospect of military service, even in a time of war, an attractive alternative to a life of low-paying jobs, living in the shadows, and exploitation.
But here is where things turn not so black and white as I see it. There are other factors that must be considered also…and where the promise of Dream comes in.
Do the drop out rates cause the hopelessness…or does the hopelessness cause the dropout rates? It sounds flippant …but it's a crucial question.
For almost all other groups in society, the acquisition of an education brings with it the potential a better life. (I say potential because for many it is by no means a guarantee …but we do know without an education there is not even that potential). But for the undocumented, even this potential does not exist. Given their status, no matter how well they perform academically under the current system, they have no real tangible opportunities. This devaluing of education I believe plays a crucial role perpetuating the poor academic performance we see in undocumented youth. We see a similar problem in much of the economically impoverished population in general, where a mix of neglect and lack of tangible opportunities make education, particularly free public education, a meaningless commodity for many.
So this must be added to the scale when weighing our decision.
Would the prospect that with an education comes not only legal status but opportunities long denied, have a long term positive effect on educational performance?
I think the answer would of course be yes. Would DREAM overnight change failing schools into success stories, or overcome years of government and societal neglect…of course not. But it would for the first time make an education pay off for a population that has not really benefited from one before. This would be an enormous paradigm shift.
So although under the current system DREAM beneficiaries would initially skew more towards the military option …what happens two, three, five, ten years out? I am hopeful that we would see many more high school graduates, many more community college students and hopefully many more college grads.
Additionally we must weigh in the fact that the most current version of DREAM extends protections to primary and secondary school students. Simply put, this means not as many children will be subjected to detention and deportation. The added benefit being that if you in fact stayed in school, rather than dropping out …you keep your status.
Lastly in weighing the decision comes the matter of political practicalities. The bill will now be introduced as "stand alone legislation" as opposed to an amendment. This means that the bill itself can and will be amended. One change that has been proposed is the addition of a "technical or vocational" school component along with the traditional college path. This would of course also make a vast difference in the nature of the bill, especially for those currently at the greatest risk of being tapped for military recruitment. So the amendment process will need to be watch carefully.
So as I see it, when I weigh the obvious benefits of the bill (the high school graduates who will currently benefit, those who have already graduated college and receive immediate status, those up to the age of thirty who can go back to school to qualify, the children protected from deportation) and add in the potential benefit of turning the relationship between education and undocumented children on it’s head and finally make education pay off for them and the broader community. I have to choose DREAM.It is not because I have discounted the glaring negative aspects of this bill, but because I believe that they can and will be mitigated over a relatively short span of time. ….and if they are, the whole idea of forming a permanent green card army blows up in the faces of those who concocted the scheme in he first place. It's not an easy decision, but it is the one I've made.