U.S. Immigration Reform: 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.

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.