Monday, January 10, 2011

Defeat of DREAM Act will hurt opponents

Republicans managed to defeat the DREAM Act, but it’s a victory that will haunt them.

Guest essay by Álvaro Huerta

The DREAM Act — the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act — died in the Senate on Dec.18, just five votes away from the 60 needed to advance.

The Republican Party once again demonstrated its disdain toward one of the most marginalized and vulnerable groups in this country: undocumented immigrants.

And let’s not forget the Democrats who voted against it. This group included Sens. Max Baucus of Montana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Jon Tester of Montana.

If passed in Congress and signed into law by President Obama, the DREAM Act would have provided a pathway to citizenship to many undocumented individuals demonstrating a strong commitment toward higher education or service in the military.

I had several reservations with this bill, but not the same ones that the senators voting no had. I didn’t like the word “Alien” in the title; no human being is an alien. I didn’t like the fact that it would have induced young brown people to risk their lives in unjust wars like the one President Bush waged in Iraq. And I didn’t like the fact that it gave special treatment to those who attend college. An immigrant kid who doesn’t go to college still contributes to our society, after all.

Apart from my objections, this bill should have passed. It would have given hope and opportunity to immigrant children who came to this country at least five years ago — often as youngsters.

At the end of the day, while this is a short-term loss for Latinos in this country, in the long term, the Republicans and those conservative Democrats will pay a big price at the ballot box.

The browning of America is a reality that an aging white population needs to come to terms with. As the largest racial minority group in the country with a higher birth rate than the national average, Latinos will inevitably represent a majority in many key states.

Latinos are rising and demanding to be treated as human beings — with our without legal status. We want our children to have an equal shot at the American dream, and not experience an American nightmare.

[Álvaro Huerta is a doctoral candidate at UC Berkeley’s department of city and regional planning and visiting scholar at UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center. This essay first appeared in The Progressive.]

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