New Orleans The California Supreme Court yesterday became one of the few bright spots in the dark tunnel that immigrants are facing for any kind of justice or resolution given the political storm clouds hovering everywhere. The Californians ruled that it would be discriminatory to deny California residents scholarship support from state institutions because of their immigration status. This ruling does not affect state and federal money, but protects an important financial aid program for immigrants in California where more than 50% of the students are Latinos according to some reports.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and outgoing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi have also stated that they are willing to have a go at passing the DREAM Act in the lame duck Congress. As I have said earlier, this is good politics but passage would be so surprising that it might end all controversy about whether or not there is a God.
The DREAM act has had the most heat on the streets. Students have shown the courage of civil rights organizers during much of the year, even when the outcome was likely deportation to home countries that in many cases they had never seen or visited.
Let’s get some things straight. The DREAM Act is not a free “amnesty” ticket for teens. The language leaves rocks in the road and mountains to climb:
The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (The “DREAM Act”) is a piece of proposed federal legislation in the United States that was first introduced in the United States Senate on August 1, 2001 and most recently re-introduced there and the United States House of Representatives on March 26, 2009. This bill would provide certain inadmissible or deportable alien students who graduate from US high schools, who are of good moral character, arrived in the U.S. as minors, 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 if they complete two years in the military or two years at a four year institution of higher learning. The alien 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.” Military Enlistment contracts require an eight year commitment. “Any alien whose permanent resident status is terminated [according to the terms of the Act] shall return to the immigration status the alien had immediately prior to receiving conditional permanent resident status under this Act.” (from Wikipedia with sources in the House and Senate language of the bill)
Another way of looking at DREAM would be as an in-country visa program similar to what we now use to allow good students and other skill sets into the US now. Why only open the doors to those outside, if there are other students who are succeeding here now, performing productively as students, and willing to live on the tight wire of life in order to be provisional Americans? If we could get past the bias, there might be some common sense and the DREAM Act speaks not to a free ride, but at least a safe passage for those able to stay the course.
Reading the New York Times, it appears the only other viable option is laying tracks north for another underground railroad, but this time to Winnipeg Manitoba, Canada. It may be the frozen north, but at least they understand the value of the hard work and education of immigrants. In fact that is the American history and tradition for most of us, but it currently seems to be part of the national amnesia.
Win, lose, or draw, we might at least get a good fight out of this, and once we’re at close quarters, maybe we’ll make some progress, so DREAM On!