Saturday, March 28, 2009

Why Opposing the DREAM Act Due to the Military Provision is Wrong

Several allies and 'immigration rights advocates' have raised some crucial points that hinder progressive support for the DREAM Act—points that several activist students have had to encounter in the form of artless dissent from leftist intellectuals and liberals.

We are talking about dissenters like the Association of La Raza Educators, Immigrant Solidarity Network, American Friends and Service Committee, a few Latino immigrant rights activists, and even the National Lawyers Guild that refuses to take a stance on the DREAM Act. Why? They dislike the military provision in the DREAM Act that could make certain ethnic minority students such as Latino kids in the barrios more susceptible to recruitment by military officials. This is not a moot point—it is a cause for concern but it requires several hundred grams of historicizing and perspective.

First, let us clear the misinformation circulating about the DREAM Act in the progressive sphere.

  1. No one is forced into joining the military due to the DREAM Act
  2. The new version of the DREAM Act allows for federal work study and repeals the 1996 provision that bars states from providing tuition equity and aide for students.
  3. Conditional residency comes with the same rights and privileges as legal ‘green card’ residency that is re-evaluated after 6 years and contingent on the completion of these two requirements:
  • Get a GED and finish two years of college within 6 years OR
  • Join the military

For any conscientious individual, enlisting in a military that fights wars for corporate profit and greed is simply unacceptable. But that is hardly any reason to oppose the DREAM Act.


First, there is already a perpetual war against immigrant youth here at home:

Unauthorized migrant youth are already fighting a war here in the U.S. The war is the product of a targeted campaign by nativist groups that they call "attrition through enforcement." I encourage you to look it up. Attrition through enforcement means they want to make life so miserable for unauthorized migrants that they leave on their own . They want to make life more miserable than the horrible conditions migrants are fleeing from. And let me tell you, they are succeeding.

- Citizen Orange

Overseas, we are destroying families, communities, killing innocent children, deferring their dreams permanently through a ‘war against terrorism’ and at home we are killing the spirit and dreams of our undocumented immigrant youth by deporting them while destroying families and local economies in ICE raids. Even the beneficiaries of both wars are a similar prototype: CORPORATIONS. While big oil and security companies stand to gain most from the new spaces of neo-liberal globalization created by waging war against sovereign peoples, corrections and security companies also make big moolah with the creation of new spaces of detention. Why create a binary between the two wars? They are both part of United States policy.

Opposing the DREAM Act because one opposes the military draft misses another crucial point. Dissenters often claim in their silly online rants that the act is 'anti-Mexican American' because this is the population most susceptible and likely to not make it to college and be drafted by the military. It is true that overall only 1 out of 20 Latino students attend college and the rest may be open to exploitation but that is due to limited options, lack of affordability, and the hopelessness of being undocumented. To borrow from Duke at Migra Matters:

Would the prospect that with an education comes not only legal status but opportunities long denied, have a long term positive effect on educational performance? I think the answer would of course be yes. Would DREAM overnight change failing schools into success stories, or overcome years of government and societal neglect…of course not. But it would for the first time make an education pay off for a population that has not really benefited from one before. This would be an enormous paradigm shift.

Why not work to give the 19 other students help and resources to attend college instead of opposing the opportunity altogether? Why not provide scholarship funds and resources for them instead of shutting the doors on educational access? The DREAM Act provides students with hope that there is something beyond high school and it also contains provisions for higher education assistance. In an unreleased study of the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California, high school dropout rates for California (a state that provides in-state tuition to undocumented students in college) and North Carolina (a state that bans undocumented students from attending college) were compared and the numbers revealed something hardly surprising: high school graduation rates for immigrant students, especially Latinos, had increased in California despite cutbacks in education whereas the reverse was true in North Carolina. Clearly, providing opportunities for higher education is one way of ensuring that we do not create a permanent underclass of uneducated immigrant youth in our country.

Without a foreseeable future, many undocumented immigrant youth are more susceptible to drop out of school before finishing high school. If there are no opportunities for a child after high school, how does one expect that child to be motivated to continue their education? Once they realize that all doors and windows of opportunity are closed to them, undocumented students find themselves stuck in neutral: unable to move forward of their own volition and too often reminded of the past that created the situation. Can we then claim that opposing an educational opportunity such as the DREAM Act is precisely what creates conditions for military recruitment? You bet. Undocumented students are joining the military right now, putting themselves at risk of death and deportation, just to get legalized since going to college does not give them that option. A backdoor draft for undocumented immigrant youth already exists because there aren't enough opportunities for legalization such as H-I-G-H-E-R E-D-U-C-A-T-I-O-N. In effect, opposing the DREAM Act means putting the lives of countless students at risk. So much for opposing militarization ...

On a historical note, does anyone remember the debacle of the Equal Rights Amendment for women which only stipulated that equal rights under any federal, state or local law could not be d enied on the basis of sex? The proposed amendment failed to pass in 1982 not due to widespread sexism, but due to conservative women, anti-abortion politicians and feminists with anti-military roots who feared and purported that giving equal rights to women would leave them more vulnerable to a military draft. Hence, this country did not approve a constitutional amendment for equal rights for women. In hindsight, that is despicable and we must ensure that the same does not happen to immigrant youth as we fight for our own civil right to exist in the only country we call our home.

That said, it does not matter that these progressives are unable to find undocumented students that openly oppose the DREAM Act on their own accord (Nothing like 13,000 strong for the DREAM Act here and here)—they would rather adjudicate about our civil rights from their own places of power and privilege. 715,000 undocumented students aged 5 to 17 could be inspired by the DREAM act to finish high school. Instead of supporting a bill that serves as a tool of empowerment and encouragement or fighting against militarization after the bill is passed, our progressive friends would rather condemn ALL immigrant youth to a permanent underclass of poverty and despair. Congratulations, you are a real ‘progressive.’

For many immigrant youth struggling through school and life, this is offensive and backstabbing behavior. How can anyone sit in the safety and comfort of their privilege and tell us that most of us cannot go to college because others might have to join the military? How can someone profess to stand for immigrant rights when they do not want to enable immigrant youth to work and earn resources for immigrant communities? How does an immigrant rights activist oppose the DREAM Act when it is the litmus test for any comprehensive bill? Why oppose a legislation that challenges the homogenous view of all migrants as criminals, law-breakers and a drain to society—a problem that plagues immigration debate in this country?

Dissenters would call us 'Me-First' and trumpet their 'Legalization For All' in all-caps much like nativists. Great, call Congress as Matias suggests here and fight for just and humane immigration reform. If we cannot pass the DREAM Act, we cannot possibly conceive of getting any sort of just and humane immigration reform passed. That is why the pro-enforcement nativists clamor against the moderate, bipartisan DREAM Act—they know giving in to immigrant youth means empowering a whole new generation of promigrant activism and setting the stage for the passage of more comprehensive bills. THAT is their real nightmare. Therefore, finding oneself aligned with Michelle Malkins and Faux News is hardly a sign of progressivism and change.

This is political but ultimately, it is also personal. An undocumented student, Maria, tells us that:

When a person is given one shot at something that they have been denied all their life, that one person will not take such an opportunity for granted. A perfect example would be when African Americans were not allowed to attend the same schools as whites, and instead of giving up, they fought hard for that chance that they knew they deserved. Years later, we are in the 21st century where the first African American preside nt has been elected. This would not have been possible had African Americans not fought for what they deserved, and had they not been given a chance. Therefore, it is my firm belief that if undocumented students were to be given that same opportunity, other smart, driven, and successful leaders would emerge.

The million dollar question for the progressive dissenters: Are we going to let immigrant youth lead and support each other with hope or try and squash them with fear of unknown hypotheticals?

And what about youth that do want to serve in the military? How does one look Noe Guzman and Pablo in the eye and tell them "Sorry, we don't support your right to citizenship because you want to join the armed forces? It doesn't matter if you are willing to serve in the military and die for this country. That should not give you citizenship."

There is something that these ‘immigrant rights advocates’ can do and the suggestion comes from Citizen Orange once again:

The DREAM Act originally included a third path to citizenship for unauthorized migrant youth. There used to be a community service provision in the DREAM Act. During the campaign, those of us at The Sanctuary were able to get Barack Obama to reaffirm his support for the community service provision of the DREAM Act.

The Sanctuary: Do you support the community service requirement of previous DREAM Act legislation that would grant provisional (conditional) legal status to immigrant graduates who perform 910 hours of community service?
Barack Obama: Yes.

The Sanctuary (18 September 2008)

Those who are skeptical of the military provision of the DREAM Act should push for the community service provision of the DREAM Act. To oppose it outright though is unfair to unauthorized migrant youth that have so much activism and hope invested in the DREAM Act.

We already have to battle it out with nativists and with our life circumstances. We do not want to be fighting with our friends and allies too. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Support immigrant youth. Support the DREAM Act.

Crossposted at Change.org

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Don't stand on the way of our DREAM

I have a myriad of happy posts coming up soon. They will be about this past weekend's USSA Conference, where three undocumented students shared their personal stories for the first time. They will be about the anti-Dream students that decided to support the DREAM Act after hearing our presentation and watching the Underground Undergrads film. One of them will include a picture of Senator Dick Durbin sporting his brand-new "United We Dream" hat. Maybe we'll have video of Sofi's passionate speech in front of the US Capitol.

But today I want to show an email I just wrote to the so-called "revolutionaries" with college degrees who do not recognize the opportunity we have before us, waste their time opposing the DREAM Act while talking of imperialism, and make us all look bad by acting like a poster board for what our students are not:, so that anti-immigrants can have a field day. These "revolutionary" dimwits flood pro-DREAM listservs with their political ignorance, so here is my response:
Everyone who thinks that the DREAM Act is a great opportunity for millions of undocumented students...

Everyone who thinks is important to stand united behind progressive legislation rather than undercut other people's work...

Everyone who knows the amount of our undocumented youth of color that will flood into universities, state schools, and community colleges all over the country will overwhelmingly outnumber those who choose the military route...

Everyone that knows the path towards "LEGALIZATION FOR ALL" is a strenuous and difficult one, and that we build that road one step at a time by working together and being strategic...

Everyone who understands that the faster we as undocumented youth move towards a path to citizenship, the faster we can push our voting power to prevent foreign policy catastrophes like Iraq and Afghanistan to happen again...

Please use your own power, and keep calling in support of progressive ideals you believe in, whether it be the DREAM Act, Just and Humane Immigration Reform, or an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan!

And, whatever you do, work towards progress and do not claim the high road of "all-caps" email yelling and tokenization of undocumented youth.

Yes we can,

-Matias Ramos
Undocumented Dreamer
IDEAS at UCLA, CA Dream Network, United We Dream Coalition

The number to call is 202-224-3121. And the petition is DreamAct2009
Support the DREAM Act.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

In Memoriam: Marco Antonio Firebaugh


This old rally sign sits in our office.

I never met Marco Antonio Firebaugh. The Tijuana-born, South Gate-raised, Berkeley and UCLA-educated architect behind AB540 passed away on this date in 2006, before I had a chance to actually see him in person and thank him for the arduous work of moving an unpopular piece of legislation in the state that a few years ago had voted for Proposition 187.

I remember the 2004 fast for the DREAM Act outside USC, and I was not there the day he showed up to support the students.

Later that year, someone hosted a luncheon for AB540 students. I couldn't attend, but my buddy Manuel, who I roomed with for some time at UCLA, was beaming with pride to have met him. Now, Manuel is usually apprehensive about politics in general, but even he was effusive about how inspiring Firebaugh's words to his audience was.

Even though he was out of the legislature by the time IDEAS held its first ever banquet, we still chose him for our first ever "Legislator of the Year" award in 2006. He was set to attend the event, and meet a group of proud and grateful kids from the support and advocacy group for undocumented students. But liver failure and the twists of life prevented him from doing so. Nobody saw it coming. But this is how he felt about what the fight for AB540 meant to future activists.
AB- 540 was a product of twelve years of work; it took 12 years to get this state of California to say if you are a young person that goes to our public schools, who lives here, who is going to make this their home, who has contributed, who has succeeded, who has excelled we are going to let you study and pay what everybody else that is a California resident pays. It is not a cut rate, you get to pay what everyone else pays. And it took us 12 years to get there. It is a struggle, it is still a place that demands our activism and our tenacity and hard work, and I guess I'll leave you with that thought.
-Marco Antonio Firebaugh, to the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, in 2005 (five months before he passed away)
A choppy phrase, perhaps, but certainly a powerful thought that should recharge us for the DREAM fight. Rest In Peace, and Thank You.

Friday, March 20, 2009

LegCon and Esperanza


Greetings from Washington, DC. I am getting ready to attend LegCon. For those of you not familiar with this peculiar abbreviation, LegCon stands USSA's Grassroots Legislative Conference and National Student Lobby Day. So yea, LegCon is easy and short.

Hundreds of students from around the country will be here to participate in this annual gathering, and to lobby legislators on a number of issues, including the DREAM Act. UU, along with members of DreamActivist, will be presenting a workshop about the undocumented students and their activism around the country. I will have a full writeup later, but for now you can definitely show your support and warm up for a year-long fight for DREAM by singing the petition.

Before LegCon kicks off, however, I am attending an important event at the Atlantic Video Studios: the launch of the Esperanza Educational Fund. The Esperanza Fund will award immigrant students in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area community-funded college scholarships. Please donate if you have the means.

Pass the DREAM Act.

Cesar Chavez Fundraiser for DREAMers in Rhode Island

Check out this event next week to support undocumented students in Rhode Island.
Students can possibly attend for free by emailing in a request. The website is here.





If

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Around the states: A win in Utah, a detour in Colorado

Undocumented student advocates have been fighting battles in many state legislatures this year. In two states we were covering in the Mountain Region, the battles were fought in different directions.

We were in the defensive in Utah, where the legislature just narrowly struck down a bill seeking to amend their existing in-state tuition exemption (think AB540) program. HB208 proposed to add one more prerequisite for those undocumented students who grew up in Utah and attended local schools. If they wanted to go to college, they had to sign an affidavit stating they had not worked in the state.

This unfair amendment would have once again tied in the overlying principle of equal access to education, with the botched system of immigration and employment. Thankfully, the necessary Republican votes were there to see the bill defeated, 40-34:
"Whatever the purpose of the bill is, the actual impact of this bill will be to narrow the opening of the schoolhouse doors," said Rep. Kay McIff, R-Richfield. He said the measure reminded him of then-Gov. George Wallace trying to block black students from enrolling in the University of Alabama.
"Can you think of any culture, any country, anyone who benefited from narrowing the opening of the schoolhouse doors?"
Full story, from the Salt Lake Tribune, is here.

In Colorado, we were trying to gain ground, by pushing for tuition equity. The bill was not debated in the Senate floor, and instead heads to the Appropriations committee, where according to the Denver Post, "its prospects are shaky". The Post pays special attention to Committee Vice-Chair, Senator Maryanne "Moe" Keller, a Democrat who apparently has "said she doesn't support the bill". I called her office today, and they said that such statement had not come from the office and that it was purely speculation from the press. Her staffer clarified that the Senator does not state her intent to vote for or against a bill before the actual vote take place. We are sending her a book and an email today.

Pass the DREAM Act.

St. Patrick's Day!!!



Wearing a green sweater at the office today. And wondering what the nativists at ALIPAC, et al. who oppose these unpatriotic immigrants have to say about the majority of our country celebrating another nation's national holiday today.

Cheers to our Irish brothers and sisters.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Hearing recapped: Kevin Prada's letter

Thanks all who attended Saturday's Campus Community Hearing on the DREAM Act. For those who were unable to make it, we offer two recaps.

Recap 1: In an otherwise quiet Saturday morning on the eve of Winter Quarter finals, students and community members joined IDEAS at UCLA for a hearing on the history and future of the DREAM Act as a legislative battle, and of Dreamers, the undocumented potential beneficiaries of this legislation, as an important part of our cultural fabric. Undocumented students from Mexico, Argentina, and South Korea told their stories, speakers from Congressman Howard Berman's office, NILC, CHIRLA, the LA Archdiocese, and MALDEF offered their insight, and all attendees participated in breakout sessions where they signed "Commitment to Action" forms to help in the battle for the DREAM Act and immigrant rights.

Recap 2: During a hearing on immigrant rights, the largest lecture hall at UCLA was filled with sighs and tears as Kevin, a 12-year old U.S. citizen, read his own story of why this country needs better, more just, and more humane immigration policies, including the DREAM Act. Unable to summarize the letter with justice, we offer it here in its entirety.

==============================================

Dear Mr. President Barack Obama,

Hello, my name is Kevin, a 12 year old American citizen, and I wish to express myself to you. My father, Wilber Prada, was deported on September 27, 2007. Until that date, my life was great, fun, happy, radiant with love for family. My father had crossed the border escaping the terrorist-infested Peru in the early 1990s. He came to America, pleading for the political-Asylum that America was offering for fleeing Peruvians. Unfortunately, his case was denied. He later appealed in 2000, again pleading for a citizenship for my family. By this time, he had a business in gardening, working Monday through Saturday. He was the greatest father I could ever ask for, always being there for me, and loving me so much, and teaching me my favorite sport soccer. We weren’t different from any other “American” family, and had the greatest life until he was deported.

The day he was deported was the WORST, SADDEST DAY OF MY LIFE. I couldn’t stop crying for days, just missing him even more everyday, getting worse and worse. I couldn’t go to school because I couldn’t concentrate on my work, only on my dad. My grades dropped so much, and I couldn’t tell my friends because they wouldn’t understand. I only had my mom, brother, and a great, enthusiastic teacher. My mother was also like me but worse. Even now, she still cries and still sad about what happened. Same with my brother. Luckily, time passed, and my teacher noticed. She cried and gave us love when she knew what had happened. It was a shame for the INS to take 17 years to say NO, even after my father established friendships, a business, and a home. He always paid his taxes to the IRS, and was a great man to know. When they took my dad, some said if it was so bad, why does the whole family not go to Peru with him? Well, that didn’t make sense to me, when I had also established friends, family, and school, love. It was a disgrace to hear that, when we were like any other family trying to survive in this nation.

My father was arrested like a criminal, as if he had done something like killing someone, or robbing a bank. My father has lived in the US for more than 17 years, a very long time, and after all of that, he was denied?

PLEASE, I write to you wishing for what you have promised, CHANGE. I would like to have my dad back with me, IN AMERICA. I would like for my hard-working family to have citizenship, and to be here without being scared of being caught by some sort of homeland security. My brother is an AB540 studen t, and studying at UCLA for 4 years. I would also like to ask you to give him and all the undocumented students citizenship, by passing the DREAM act. My mother has her own house-cleaning business she owns to feed us. I would also like her to have citizenship, when she is volunteering teaching Spanish at my school, taking me to karate everyday, and working everyday. Please, Give My Father FREEDOM. GIVE my Family FREEDOM. I WANT CHANGE NOW!

PLEASE, PLEASE, Please, reply to my letter, and remember when you were not raised with your father, just like me. You suffered a lot, and now im suffering the same. Please help me, and respond back to me.

Thank you,

Kevin

Thursday, March 5, 2009

More info on the hearing

Our original post did not have the event location, which is:

UCLA Campus
Moore Hall 100
Saturday March 7th, 2009
10AM-12PM


Facebook: Here

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Campus Community Hearing on the DREAM Act


The UCLA Labor Center, MALDEF, and IDEAS at UCLA present:

Campus Community Hearing: The DREAM Act

The DREAM Act, a bill that would create a path to legalization for nearly 2.5 million young immigrants who have grown up in the United States, is expected to be reintroduced later this month.

Its passage would be a much needed first step towards better immigration policies in our nation.

Community leaders will be present to hear student testimonies and provide their strategies for action and mobilization on this important civil rights issue.

Potential DREAM Act beneficiaries will talk about their backgrounds and aspirations, and about their families’ dire need for just and humane immigration reform.

Come hear and learn how you can also be one of thousands committing to take action for immigrant rights!

UCLA Campus, Moore Hall 100, Saturday March 7th, 2009

All are welcome; invite your friends, roommates, family, professors etc.

Speakers include:
Kent Wong, Director of the UCLA Labor Center
Marielena Hincapie, Executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center
Assemblymember Mike Eng, California's 49th Assembly district
The office of Congressman Howard Berman, California’s 28th Congressional District

Endorsed by:

Adelante California!
Alliance of Dreams
Asian Pacific Coalition
Bruin Democrats
Christian Students of Conscience
Critical Asian Pacific Islander Students for Action
Conciencia Libre
Samahang Pilipino
Student Activist Project
USAC's External Vice President's Office

If your organization would like to endorse this community event please send us a message for more information. See you there!

undergroundundergrads@gmail.com