Throughout the day, I often find myself taking breaks in-between laying the bricks of what will become my ivory tower. I call them sanity breaks because they represent an attempt on my part to calm myself and de-stress. While most of these breaks take the form of nicotine or caffeine ingestion, I do sometimes (and perhaps not frequently enough) sit back and take stock of the opportunity I have been given to study what I love. As a funded PhD hopeful, there have been many places throughout my schooling where I have been encouraged to succeed. I am grateful for my mother, an elementary school teacher, who instilled in me a genuine love of learning. I am indebted to the many grammar and high school educators who fully recognized my potential–even when I didn’t–and who fostered my academic growth through their tireless, comically underpaid work. And of course, I cannot imagine my life without the many dutiful and brilliant professors who guided me as a lowly undergrad–and continue to mentor me as a graduate student today.
It took a lot of work on my part to get here, too. As many of my grad student brethren can attest, the learned life isn’t easy. There is nothing free about this ride when you carry the university’s name on your back. And let’s not talk about the undergrad student loan yoke I will carry around for the next couple decades. For as much hard work as I have had to do to get to where I am, it is even harder still for some in our country who are also trying to realize their potential, their dreams. I grow sick at the idea that someone as capable as me, in the same country as me, with the same motivation as me would not be allowed to have what I have–and give back all that he or she can give back to our country–simply because he or she is undocumented. The DREAM Act must pass.
During my most recent sanity break, I ended up on Twitter but was quickly riled up by some of the arguments I read against the passage of the DREAM Act. Some of these posts came from individuals with clearly conservative perspectives. But others came from liberal idealists within our very own community. Cutting and pasting these from my Twitterfeed, I just had to share a few here. The following posts against and about the DREAM Act should give you pause, too. But, remember, after the break, we need to get back to work.
1. “The dominant narrative is that #DREAMAct is a step forward towards #CIR. It is not. Think of the #DREAMAct as special legislation.”
While it probably is best to think of this as special legislation, any piece of legislation that props the door open for more action is a good thing. Its passage should not imply that there is no more work to be done. Furthermore, in so much that a major impediment to comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) is the American public’s inability to approach immigration humanely, any step towards rewarding some individuals for their accomplishments, thus humanizing them, is a step in the right direction. It is the dehumanization of the undocumented which, in part, prevents the public from getting on board with CIR. Therefore, any step towards that humanization is progress and is good and should be welcome.
2. “The #DREAMAct seems to have the perfect narrative: reward talent and hard work while taking a step forward towards #CIR but it rewards only a select few; leaving more than a million to fend for themselves. The #DREAMAct is not CIR. This is not acceptable and we should not support it.”
If we should not be looking at this as CIR (the same individual who posted 2 posted item 1 above), then why does it matter if it’s not comprehensive? By definition, then, it should be understood that this is just one piece of legislation, independent of CIR. So why shouldn’t those who can achieve citizenship under this one piece of legislation be allowed to do so? Because it is not enough? This is no time for idealism. This legislation was first proposed almost ten years ago. What exactly is the hold up? Why continue to stymie the DREAMers? Posed differently: If a boat is sinking, do you let everyone die together because it isn’t fair to let the few who can be saved now, be saved? How fatalistic. I say, we need to let those few who can be saved now be saved. Who knows, they may come back and save the rest. Meanwhile, heads do need to keep working to save everyone because the boat is steady going down.
3. “The #DREAMAct gives us the illusion that the @BarackObama administration is serious about enacting #CIR.”
The act itself does no such thing. The act cannot do that. It is the discourse–perpetuated by some people–around it that could be construed in such a way as to make other people believe that. If someone erroneously holds those beliefs–that this legislation equals the be-all-end-all of CIR–then that represents a problem with their understanding of the legislation and the goals of the movement. It is up to the concerned activists, journalists, teachers, and others supporting the cause to continue doing their part reminding the public that more needs to be done. In the meantime, back in the real world, thousands upon thousands of young students are still undocumented. Each day, they move closer to completing high school while simultaneously moving further away from the unhindered access to a college education they deserve as Americans in all but paper certification. The possible effects of how this legislation might make the Obama administration look to some is not a valid reason why it should not be passed.
4. “The #DREAMAct takes resources away from U.S. students who are citizens.”
I am not really clear about this logic. But I think it involved the idea that money that will be allotted to undocumented students will come at the expense of funds for students who are citizens. I believe this is false. But let’s assume it is true, though: Then, yes, U.S. citizens should be given priority. Why? Because they live here and work here (pay taxes) and are invested in this country. Oh wait, so are the undocumented for which this legislation is designed. Under this legislation, undocumented students will get a path to citizenship. So, how would this legislation represent people taking away from citizens if the beneficiaries of this act will actually become citizens?
5. “Follow the #txhungerstrikers here: http://bit.ly/eNFvSB and here: http://bit.ly/d969JG”
While people go in circles about what is wrong with this act instead of standing behind what is right, there are plenty of dedicated souls out there making real sacrifices so that we can take heed. Soooo, take heed. Follow them at the links above.
6. “Getting news of local DREAMer that took his life #devastating #passdreamalready #dreamact”
Death should not be preferable to the struggle. For many individuals, the inability to realize their educational goals will amount to just that though: a prolonged death–for themselves, their families, communities and also for our country’s reputation as an inclusive, fair and just land of immigrants.
Follow N. Reyna Amaya on Twitter: @reynabot3000