A DREAM Act With No Military Strings Attached
- A DREAM Act With No Military Strings Attached Papers for all Undocumented Youth!
by Alejandra Juarez
On Wednesday, November 10th just one week after the Midterm elections, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) came out in support of the DREAM Act.
Along with Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), Pelosi has promised to push for its passage during the lame duck session.
Both legislators are keenly aware of their party’s dubious standing without Latino support.
Certainly, it was the Latino vote which helped Reid maintain his congressional seat.
Likewise, as Pelosi seeks to become House Minority Leader, her announcement to push for a vote on the proposed legislation is meant to rally support from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and progressives.
But what are they offering us?
In 2008 Barack Obama won the presidency by securing the Latino vote on the promise of comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) during his first year in office.
Yet almost two years later 11 million undocumented immigrants continue to wait for a path to legalization.
Worse yet, they wait in fear as the number of raids and deportations have skyrocketed under the Obama administration, a record 400,000 this past year alone.
The intensification and institutionalization of repressive measures like S-Comm, 287(g), E-Verify, and the militarization of the border have all created an atmosphere of terror in immigrant communities.
Obama's delayed promised of immigration reform also allowed for Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s strike, enacting SB 1070, which represents a widespread attack on the immigrant community not only in Arizona but throughout the nation.
Democratic leaders including President Obama have declared CIR dead.
Instead they offer piecemeal legislation like AgJOBS and the DREAM Act.
The numbers don’t add up
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact number of undocumented youth living in the United States, estimates are in the millions.
According to studies only around 2.1 million would potentially be eligible to apply for legal status under the DREAM Act.
However, the Migration Policy Institute reports that a merely 825,000 or 38% of these 2.1 million would meet all the requirements for legal permanent residency (LPR).
This is a tiny minority who would actually benefit from the DREAM Act, leaving the overwhelming majority with no way to legalize their status and vulnerable to deportation.
Furthermore, one of the requirements for gaining LPR is attending college or university for at least two years; an unlikely proposition taking into account the costs of higher education and the discrimination inherent in our national educational system.
Nationally, the cost of attending college has increased 439% from 1982 to 2007 (National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education).
In California, tuition fees at the UC’s and CSU’s continue to increase from 32% last year to 15% this year and a scheduled 8% and 10% increase next year for UC’s and CSU’s respectively.
The community colleges are no different.
Last year they saw a fee increase of 54% and course offerings shrink.
Along with that grant and scholarship offerings are also shrinking.
And contrary to popular belief “students from lower-income families, on average, get smaller grants from the colleges they attend than students from more affluent families” (National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education).
Likewise, DREAM Act students would not be eligible for federal financial aid -- only loans and work study.
Moreover, the DREAM Act gives states the prerogative to decide if these students qualify for in-state tuition (repealing Section 505 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996).
Moreover, the barriers to socio-economic progress are stack such that racial and ethnic minorities have a slim chance of success in this country.
For example, although Latino, black, and Native Americans accounted for 29% of high school graduates, they only made up 13% of incoming freshmen at the UC’s in 2007.
And that number has decreased in recent years.
The national high school drop-out rate among Latinos is around 40%.
In California the drop-out rate is 36%.
In addition, a significant percent of the 1.5 generation coming to the United States without papers arrive with very little schooling and come to work to contribute to the family income.
These undocumented youth would not even qualify for conditional LPR status.
* Guns for papers *
The other option the DREAM Act offers in order to gain LPR status is two years of military service.
Given the new higher education framework, the military option then becomes the de-facto choice to gain LPR status for most undocumented youth.
Those non-citizens already fighting overseas have gained very little as permanent residency is not guaranteed and posthumous citizenship brings no benefits to families of the deceased.
Besides, the threat of deportation even for those in uniform is still a possibility.
With the continued occupations in the Middle East and elsewhere, as well as the increased militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, it is very likely that those joining the military under the DREAM Act will see combat.
And although the DREAM Act asks for only two years of military service, we must be aware that there is no such thing as a two-year military contract.
Since the National Call to Service Plan passed in 2003 all enlistment requires a minimum of eight years.
For a DREAM Act with no military strings attached!
Undocumented youth are tired of the vast inequities and limited opportunities afforded to them because of their citizenship status.
We fight for the right to education for all, the right to have a job that helps our families get out of poverty, the right to live without fear of incarceration and deportation, the right to keep families together.
We denounce the Democrats for their political maneuvering offering empty promises in exchange for our vote.
We should not be asked to assist in the continued occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, or in any new militaristic adventures in Latin America, Iran, or elsewhere in order to obtain papers for our immigrant brothers and sisters.
Nor should we have to subjugate our Peoples in their native lands or on the border.
We in the immigrant community are not discouraged by the lack of political will in Washington.
We will continue to fight for a new and just immigration policy based on human and workers' rights.
More than ever, it is necessary to (re)build an independent mass movement for legalization.
It will take huge mobilizations and strikes like those that took place in the spring of 2006 to force the ruling elite to grant our just demands.
More than ever, the passing -- and the content -- of the DREAM Act depends on our independent struggles today.
The future of the DREAM Act depends on us being able unify and push forward in united action!
Students, parents, community activists and their organizations are mobilizing on December 3 in front of the Federal Building in San Francisco to demand papers for ALL!
Join the anti-military, pro-legalization contingent calling for a DREAM Act with No Military Strings Attached!
And join us in San Francisco or organize a solidarity action in your community.