David Bennion: November 2009 Archives

[Cross-posted at Young Philly Politics]

Each year in the U.S., 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school with limited options for higher education or employment. Many undocumented youth were brought to this country as children, even infants, by their parents. They are indistinguishable in every way but one from their citizen friends, classmates, and siblings: they don't have a piece of paper that says they can stay here.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) would change that. The Act would provide conditional legal status to applicants who:

provide certain undocumented immigrant students who graduate from US high schools, are of good moral character, arrived in the US as children, and have been in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill's enactment, the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency. The students would obtain temporary residency for a six year period. Within the six year period, a qualified student must have "acquired a degree from an institution of higher education in the United States or [have] completed at least 2 years, in good standing, in a program for a bachelor's degree or higher degree in the United States," or have "served in the uniformed services for at least 2 years and, if discharged, [have] received an honorable discharge.".

A version of the Act was first introduced in 2001, and subsequent versions have been proposed since then, but the bill stalled during the acrimonious immigration debate of 2006-07. The Act was reintroduced earlier this year, and has garnered 105 co-sponsors in the House and 35 in the Senate. It has been endorsed by President Obama, Secretary of DHS Janet Napolitano, Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust, Microsoft, the College Board, the University of California system, and several newspaper editorial boards, including the New York Times. Against it are ... the same restrictionist organizations that oppose any immigration reform.

This spring, Temple University passed a resolution in support of the Act, largely through the efforts of Daniel Dunphy, President of the Temple College Democrats. The city of Philadelphia followed suit with a resolution sponsored by Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez. Students at the University of Pennsylvania are also getting involved.

Dream Act candidate Walter Lara was hosted on Rick Sanchez's show on CNN last week along with Anne Galisky, the director of a new documentary about the undocumented student movement, "Papers."

I saw most of the movie a few weeks ago, and it was great--informative and heartbreaking. I wish every high school or college student, and every parent of a high school or college student, could see it to get an idea of what life without papers is like in the U.S.

Also, check out Maria's thoughtful post over at Dreamactivist.

Via Yglesias, right wingers spew racial epithets and tell Rep. Joseph Cao to "go back to Saigon" for voting yes on the Democratic health care bill.

It's almost as though this strain of conservatism doesn't want to see any nonwhites in the GOP, or anyone who thinks racism has no place in political discourse. 

We're two months away from a new decade (the "teens") and people are still saying this crap?  And believing it? 

I hope that these people are not the reason Schumer and Obama keep delaying introduction of immigration legislation, or the reason Janet Napolitano keeps locking up Dream Act-eligible students and splitting up families.  Because no one should be taking these racists seriously.

Remember Marcelo Lucero

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Nearly one year ago, on November 8, 2008, Long Island resident Marcelo Lucero was beaten and stabbed to death by a group of local teens who had decided to go "beaner hopping." They had already assaulted other Latinos earlier that day. The group appears to me to have viewed racial attacks as a way to stave off boredom, regularly going after those they viewed as the most vulnerable and despised in their community: Latino immigrants.

Long Island Wins is sponsoring a campaign to remember Marcelo. Remembering Marcelo's life and his death is important to me because there have been too many racial attacks in Philadelphia as well. Some incidents date back years, like the attack against Julio Maldonado and Denis Calderon in 1996, where law enforcement sided with the persecutors instead of the victims. Immigrants are still being attacked today in our community, and for the same reasons that Marcelo was killed: they are viewed as enemies or threats by many in the community and also seen as easy targets. Local law enforcement here facilitates those kinds of crimes by targeting immigrants themselves, usually for minor traffic violations, and turning them over to ICE, ensuring that immigrant victims of crimes will be less willing to call the police for protection. This problem is not limited to Philly--Luis Ramirez was killed in Pottsville, PA, just months before Marcelo's death.

Long Island Wins and Marcelo's family have very effectively pushed back against the hate in their community, and I hope that other communities around the country can follow their example.

And as Ted Hesson of Long Island Wins pointed out, Congress could do a lot to solve the problem of hate crimes by passing immigration reform to bring people out of the shadows and into the scope of the protections that others in the community enjoy. Right now, too many people are invisible to all but those who wish them harm.

Activists in New York are disappointed:

When we elected Barack Obama as the President of the United States, we thought we were choosing change; we thought we were voting for humane immigration reform; we thought the separation of families would end. Now, less than a year later, we see that we were wrong.

Helen is asleep, dreaming of her lacrosse match the next day, the latest poem she has been working on and her weekend plans with friends from her church group. Suddenly, she is woken up, dragged from her bed at gunpoint and told that none of the things that she has been working toward and dreaming of are possible for her. Helen's dreams have been interrupted by a living nightmare.

The twist to this story is that Helen Mejia-Perez is a U.S. citizen.  Her parents fled the turmoil in Guatemala in 1992, the tail end of a civil war in which the U.S. had a hand in creating.  Now Helen's parents are about to be deported early tomorrow morning.  At 13, Helen and her 4-year-old brother will have little choice but to go with their parents back to Guatemala.  This is a de facto deportation of two U.S. citizens. 

As these New York DreamActivists have ascertained, President Obama's DHS is pretty much the same as President Bush's DHS was.  Getting deportation numbers up is priority number one.  Worrying about the families that are torn apart, or Dream Act-eligible students deported, is at the bottom of the list. 

Congress continues to shovel taxpayer money to DHS to fund enforcement efforts, while our local Philadelphia USCIS office is cutting personnel who work to help people navigate the system to obtain lawful status.  As it gets harder and harder to obtain and maintain legal status, harder to become a citizen, it is easier than ever to be deported.  

Meanwhile the administration and Democrats in Congress (with some exceptions) continue to stall and prevaricate about when they will introduce an immigration bill. 

Join Mo at DreamActivist in asking Senator Feinstein to stand up for immigrant families, to stand up for the U.S. citizen children in her state:

Call Senator Feinstein:  D.C.: (202) 224-3841  San Francisco: (415) 393-0707  Los Angeles: (310) 914-7300

"I was calling to ask why Senator Feinstein is not stepping in and allowing for United States citizens to be deported!"

Leave a message at each office and then rinse and repeat in a few hours.  We have to make sure Feinstein knows we won't tolerate this from her.

Sign onto this letter at change.org, or to sign on as an organization, send an email to mo at dreamactivist dot org.