Kyle's Harvard Crimson Op-Ed - The Right To Exist
This op-ed is going to be published in the Harvard Crimson, today, on May 1, 2009:
Harvard University, one of the world's most prestigious educational institutions, is refusing to take an active stance on one of the most glaring educational injustices of our time. Last month, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act was reintroduced into Congress, but Harvard has yet to lift a finger to help get the legislation passed.
This is especially disrespectful to fellow students who would benefit from the DREAM Act. In 2006, there were at least 10 unauthorized migrant youth at Harvard College. I personally know of at least half a dozen. Unauthorized youth are the most visceral representation of what is wrong with contemporary migration policy in the United States. For anyone familiar with this aspect of the migration debate, the stories of unauthorized youth are ubiquitous: 65,000 unauthorized youth graduate from our high schools every year. They are brought to this country at a young age; some arrive before they can even remember living anywhere else. The struggle of unauthorized youth is unique in U.S. history. They are fighting for the basic right to exist in the only country they know as their home. It frustrates me that Harvard isn't doing more to help them.
As unauthorized youth grow up, they slowly begin to comprehend how unjust the world is for those who are born without citizenship from a privileged nation. Throughout elementary, middle, and high school, unauthorized youth sit in the same classrooms as U.S. citizens do, but they are barred from meaningful employment ,and it's almost impossible for them to attend college. Regardless of how talented these students may be, their options are limited after they graduate. There is no viable way for unauthorized youth to secure legal immigration status. It is easier for unauthorized youth to get into Harvard than it is for them to get a green card. Their choices are either to go "back" to a country they do not know or resign themselves to life as an "illegal."
Every day, I am inspired by the courage of the numerous unauthorized youth who choose neither path. Instead, they choose to forge their own path by advocating for legislation like the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act would grant legal status to unauthorized youth who arrive in the United States before the age of 16 and meet strict requirements: In order to receive a green card, they would have to complete two years of college or two years of service in the military.
Harvard can be both a refuge and a prison for unauthorized youth. Harvard is a refuge because of its generous financial-aid policies, which allow many students from modest socioeconomic backgrounds to attend. But Harvard is also a prison because it can be an isolating place, especially for unauthorized youth. Unauthorized youth at Harvard are unable to work, travel, or plan for their future. Their lives are shrouded in constant fear. One student, whom I will not name, described ripping his name off the front of his freshman dorm room for fear it would make it easier for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to find him.
Worst of all is the stigma associated with being an "illegal alien." Nick S. Lopez '10 describes the bittersweet experience of getting into Harvard as an unauthorized youth. "Getting into Harvard wasn't the happy ending to my story that it should have been. All of these years I've felt like a liar because I haven't been able to tell my friends about my immigration status, either out of fear or embarrassment. There is a stigma associated with being 'illegal' in this country, especially with all of the attacks on immigrants by the U.S. government. All I can do is have faith in God and move forward with my head held high. I didn't come to this country to take anyone's place. What I have achieved, and what I will achieve, is due to the support of others and my own will to succeed." Today, Lopez is one of the lucky few to have received a green card--but he still courageously fights for those left behind.
When I asked for a statement from Harvard University about what it was doing for the DREAM Act, University spokesman Joe Wrinn sent me the following: "Harvard supports the efforts of our national associations, such as [the Association for American Universities] AAU and [the American Council on Education] ACE who have worked along with student organizations, in support of provisions in various versions of the DREAM Act of importance to higher education." Talk about passing the buck: From what I can tell, the last action these organizations took for the DREAM Act was a letter they drafted in 2007. And they have done nothing to support the reintroduction of the DREAM Act this year.
For Harvard to feign support through organizations that are currently doing nothing for the DREAM Act is not only dishonest, but it is also an insult to the unauthorized youth that Harvard has chosen to educate. To educate youth without fighting for their right to exist in the only country they know as their home is disgraceful. Our fellow students are living every day on this campus in fear, and the DREAM Act is the only chance they have at freedom. Before the end of this semester, President Drew Faust should voice public support for the DREAM Act and pledge to use any means necessary to get the DREAM Act passed.
Kyle A. De Beausset '08-'11, a Crimson editorial writer, is a religion concentrator who is affiliated with Leverett House. He is a member of Harvard Act on a Dream, which will be holding a rally in front of the Science Center at noon today to ask President Drew Faust to support the DREAM Act.