STERN: For a national DREAM Act

Meet Teresa Serrano. From 2006 to 2010, Serrano appeared to be a typical Yale student — she studied history and anthropology, spent much of her time volunteering for local non-profits, and, all in all, enjoyed a fairly normal Yale experience. But since her graduation in 2010, Serrano has spent her days pulling long shifts at fast food joints and laundromats. This may not seem a typical post-grad path; but Serrano, it turns out, is not a typical Yale alumna. For one thing, Teresa Serrano is not her real name. For another, she is an illegal immigrant.

I recently read about Serrano in an article in the Huffington Post that had originally appeared in the New Journal. Serrano was brought to this country from Honduras — illegally — when she was 13 months old; her past has dogged her steps ever since. Serrano has excelled academically and athletically, eventually matriculating to Yale, but she cannot find true success without valid citizenship. So, by no fault of her own, Teresa Serrano is stuck.

Serrano may be without a job and without prospects, but she is not without hope. Serrano has one hope: the DREAM Act. The act would grant permanent residence status — legality — to an illegal immigrant who was brought here as a child and will now attend college or join the military. The DREAM Act recently became law in Connecticut, but it has few prospects of becoming a national policy. Congress failed to pass the DREAM act in the last legislative session, and there is no significant force seeking to change that.

As Americans and current Connecticut residents, we should be appalled. We should be proud of this state, but appalled at Congress for failing to follow Connecticut’s example.

There is so much demagoguery in modern politics about illegal immigration. Most everyone agrees that we should attempt to secure our border and prevent more illegal immigration — but what to do about the illegals that are already living here? Barack Obama and most Democrats support a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants: those who will attend college or serve in the military. Republicans Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain and other Tea Party candidates do not support the DREAM Act. Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman do appear to support it, but they have no vote in Congress. And the purportedly sensible Mitt Romney strongly opposes the DREAM Act, often proudly reminiscing about vetoing similar legislation. I am appalled.

America could not survive without illegal immigrants. We need them. It is a truth that few like to hear and fewer accept, but it is a truth nonetheless. Illegal immigrants comprise as much as 70 percent of our agricultural workforce, and agriculture is a dominant national industry. Illegal immigrants do jobs that no one else wants — dirty, difficult, unglamorous jobs. But to be clear, the DREAM Act wouldn’t even help those immigrants.

It would help people like Teresa Serrano. It would provide a path to citizenship to only those most productive and most promising illegal immigrants. It would help the 65,000 eligible men and women each year who are stranded in limbo. And it would help each one of us, because we need more college graduates and we need more soldiers.

America is rapidly falling behind the rest of the world in terms of academic achievement, and yet those who oppose the DREAM Act would block tens of thousands of new college students. America needs soldiers to fight our wars (and defend our borders), yet some would oppose tens of thousands of new, otherwise eligible soldiers. Those who oppose the DREAM Act are actively worsening the lives of hundreds of thousands of bright young people. They are actively harming America.

Forty-four members of the Senate refused to vote for cloture, and thus for the DREAM Act in 2010. Who can oppose legislation that would help those who deserve it the most? Who can oppose legislation that, according the Congressional Budget Office, would actually decrease the deficit? This issue is such a no-brainer that it’s hard not to be appalled by our legislators’ intransigence.

Eleven million illegal immigrants live in this country — many have jobs and pay taxes. But only a fraction of them would be eligible for the DREAM Act. Perhaps it is worth remembering that complete amnesty has been granted to illegal immigrants seven times since 1986, and one of the presidents who did so was Ronald Reagan. But that could never happen today. The society we live in is too fraught with fear and laced with xenophobia. Sensible legislation — helping the best and brightest illegal immigrants — has little chance of passage. Yet we can dream.

As Teresa Serrano said, the DREAM Act is “the only hope for myself and for the hundreds of thousands of dreamers in the U.S. who have been deprived of basic human rights.” If you too feel that hundreds of thousands of young people still deserve the right to dream, please write your congressperson today. I, for one, am tired of feeling appalled.

Scott Stern is a freshman in Branford College.

Comments

  • bfa123

    I couldn’t agree more! Everyone should read this!

  • bfa123

    Although I’m actually not sure about, “America could not survive without illegal immigrants.” A little extreme…

    • perlaap

      Its really not an exteme because illegal immigrants do all the work that the CO. or bussiness need to keep their bussinesses going or else they would collapse.

  • RexMottram08

    Free markets INCLUDE labor markets! C’mon fellow conservatives!

  • River_Tam

    America could not survive without illegal immigrants? 12 percent unemployment among Americans without a college degree suggests that we don’t have a shortage of unskilled labor in the states.

    > Perhaps it is worth remembering that complete amnesty has been granted to illegal immigrants seven times since 1986, and one of the presidents who did so was Ronald Reagan

    And each time it happened, illegal immigration increased. With each round of amnesty, promises were made to increase enforcement of existing laws, and each time those promises were broken. Reagan is no saint – he made the same mistakes as others. Conservatives have learned, though. Amnesty with the promise of enforcement is bass-ackwards.

    • desch

      Actually, if you look at the most recent report on immigration to the United States from countries like Mexico (released by the PEW hispanic center this past summer) you will see that you are wrong. Immigration to the United States has decreased from Mexico in the past few months, despite the serious violence from the drug wars in almost every part of the country.

      • desch

        Even with all of this discussion of the DREAM act and Obama’s speeches about caring about hispanic voters.

      • River_Tam

        > Immigration to the United States has decreased from Mexico in the past few months

        In the past few *months*? I am talking about the past 20 years, since the last round of amnesty in 1986.

  • bfa123

    River_Tam…can’t you rad? This article isn’t primarily advocating amnesty for unskilled illegals. It’s talking about a path to legality for the skilled, college- or army-ready ones.

    • bfa123

      *read

    • River_Tam

      I can read, which gives me something called “context”. The author’s words, with the surrounding context:

      > America could not survive without illegal immigrants. We need them. It is a truth that few like to hear and fewer accept, but it is a truth nonetheless. Illegal immigrants comprise as much as 70 percent of our agricultural workforce, and agriculture is a dominant national industry. Illegal immigrants do jobs that no one else wants — dirty, difficult, unglamorous jobs.

      • bfa123

        That paragraph stands alone as the author’s pie-in-the-sky hope. Of course amnesty can’t be granted, because of all those reactionary xenophobes out there. And, in spite of the 12% of unskilled unemployed citizens, how do you respond to the fact that 70% of agricultural jobs are filled by illegal immigrants? It’s simple: American citizens, even unemployed ones, don’t want a job picking produce for 15 hours a day in the hot sun. They leave that to the immigrants.

        But the larger point–the one emphasized by the title, and, oh, about 90% of the content of the column, is that a path to citizenship should be given to illegal immigrants who, by no fault of their own, were brought to this country as children, have excelled, and are about to go to college or join the military. Are you really against that? Don’t we need more qualified college students and soldiers?

        • River_Tam

          You’re the only one who’s xenophobic, if you seriously suggest that we should use Mexican labor because Americans are too good for manual work.

          The reason that so many agricultural jobs (the stat is not 70% last time I checked) are filled by illegal immigrants is that employers can pay them less than the minimum wage.

        • River_Tam

          I don’t think we particularly need more “qualified college students” – especially because the American texpayer subsidizes all financial aid and in-state tuition, both of which these students would receive . Illegal immigrants shouldn’t even be allowed into the army in the first place.

          All this will create is more parents coming across the border, with the belief that they will be able to manufacture citizenship for their children. I don’t fault them for trying to better their childrens’ lives – WE need to change the incentives so that they don’t break the rules we’ve set in place.

  • perlaap

    This article really made me think that Immigration needs to be backed up by the DREAM Act. I am also a US borned Mexican citizen and It is true that the US without Illegal Immigrants would get nothing done. They are who make this country flow with all the HARD work they bring to be discriminated against. is NOT fair.

  • jamesdakrn

    I’m a liberal myself, but I’m 100% against the DREAM ACT.

    1. There are a lot of people who must leave the US despite coming here legally. Namely, the F-1′s,

    aka international students. I know many who were “F-1″s who came to the US at an early age,

    and they’re practically American. Yet, because they could not get a job in the US upon graduation, they must leave. We must open more doors for these people, rather than rewarding those who got into the country illegally.

    If Ms. Serrano wants to be in the US, she should’ve applied for a job as a F-1 student, (as yale gave financial aid to F-1s anyway..should’ve done that a long time ago) and get a H-class visa, and ask
    for a green card sponsorship.

    • desch

      Wouldnt it be great if it was that easy? I am a NATURALIZED immigrant. And I went through this process. It is a nightmare.

      Also, when you dont have money and you are fleeing from a country with homicide rates around 78/100,000 people like Honduras does (for the record, Mexico is at 18/100,000 and the images of the drug wars are everywhere now), you arent worrying about your kids getting green cards. Then the whole language barrier adds another level of chaos for the children of migrants who are trying to navigate the system. Try talking to a DREAMer. They are inspiring people.

      • River_Tam

        Let’s not delude ourselves. Very few, if any, illegal immigrants are illegal by accident.

        Let’s not get bogged down in special cases when the generalities are so wildly different.

        • desch

          I never said they were illegal by accident. I am merely implying that most people are not here illegally because it is “fun” or they want to be. Most people dont want to leave their communities and families behind to come and hide in the shadows here.

          • River_Tam

            > I am merely implying that most people are not here illegally because it is “fun” or they want to be.

            It might not be fun, but they are definitely here illegally of their own volition. There are good reasons too – the US offers a far better life than their home countries can. I repeat – I have sympathy for the motivations of illegal immigrants. But I also have sympathy for a hungry man who steals food – even though it’s still theft and should still be prosecuted.

          • bfa123

            The CHILDREN are not here illegally “of their own volition.” By definition, they were brought here. Should they really be punished for the sins of their parents? And your “sympathy” must mean a lot to someone who picks avocados 14 hours a day so that his daughter can dream of going to college or fighting for the country she loves…

          • River_Tam

            The problem with liberals is that they think with their hearts, which are good for pumping blood but not for critical reasoning.

            There are plenty of people who want just as badly to come into the US, but can’t because they are *obeying the law*. Where’s the sympathy for them? When someone cuts the line, everyone else gets shortchanged.

          • jamesdakrn

            THANK YOU. God I just cannot defend any libtards who think that we should reward illegals before LEGAL IMMIGRANTS. Seriously, we should reward those with F-1 Visas, H-1 Visas, E-2′s etc BEFORE WE GIVE GREEN CARDS TO ILLEGALS.

      • jamesdakrn

        I am an immigrant myself, tyvm. My family went through all that crap, (including my dad working at least 12 hrs a day to make sure that the company would actually have a revenue that suits my father according to the Department of Labor. Went from 150,000 in rev. in 2000 to around 3 mil by 2006)

        I know how hard it is to get a green card. That doesn’t mean we should reward illegal immigrants an easy pathway to a green card. That means we should let those who are going THROUGH the system, those who are not VIOLATING THE LAWS an easier pathway, especially talented students in our higher institutions, but NOT illegal immigrants.

  • jamesdakrn

    What we should do instead of the DREAM ACT is opening more to the F-1s to stay in the US and get green cards. This means increasing the current time allowed to get a job in the US after graduation from 1 year to at least 2 years. This means opening more H-class visas. This means attracting more global talents to come to the US and actually benefit our society. If these “DREAM ACT” students want to get a green card, then get an F-1 Visa, get a job upon graduation, and obtain a green card. Yes, it’s not that easy, but this is the right way. A just society should not hurt those who abide by its laws, and should not reward those who break these laws.

    In addition, there are tons of bright students with “legal” status in the US-children of E-2 visas, children of students who are studying in the US- who cannot even afford to go to college because of their “international” status, and must go back to their “mother” country despite being fairly Americanized. They must be “saved” before the DREAM ACT illegals, if we are to “save” them at all.

  • jamesdakrn

    Seriously, had my father been denied of his green card (and we were really, really effin close) my family would not have been able to send me to college at all. Yes, Yale has a huge fin aid package for int’l students, but had i not gotten in, i would have to pay the full sticker price for every other college except Harvard, princeton, and only a few other colleges.