Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Immigration--the face that cannot be seen


For the last year and a half, several of us have been advocating with and for our three DREAM Act students--Monica, Jose, and Jesse. (to find out more search for "DREAM Act" in the blog search line...or go to Larry James' blog and search for "Monica.").

As the three of them have gone through multiple deportation hearings, they have also taken their time to speak to groups of people, helped initiate the DREAM Act coalition, worked toward getting the word out about immigrants' rights, and even traveled to Washington D.C. to talk to their state Senators. They also attend college and work to help their families.

Recently, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson filed a private bill on their behalf. The Dallas Morning News wrote about it, which has now caught the attention of the national media.

To me, that sounds like progress. I want more people to hear the stories of kids like Monica, Jose, and Jesse. I think it's important that the public understand more about the DREAM Act and who it would benefit. I want people to understand that the only crime kids like Monica, Jose, and Jesse committed was staying with their family and the only crime their family committed was to over-stay their welcome in a place they knew would provide their children with possibilities and options they didn't have in Mexico.

People need to hear that "illegal" children who have been here since a very young age are desperately trying to get an education and work in order to be productive and contribute to the good of our country, but we are preventing that...which not only hurts them, but hurts us as well. For example...our schools are taking time and money to recruit and legalize bilingual teachers from places like Puerto Rico when we have bilingual educators right outside our back door who would love to be able to use their degree. Unfortunately, our fear of being "soft" on illegal immigration will not allow us to accept the very people we need.

Though I can write about what I know, the people who could articulate these arguments the best are the people who are most affected...the children. Their voices are powerful. They help us see illegal immigration from a different perspective.

But they are scared.

Our country, the "land of the free," has scared our children into hiding.

They are afraid that telling their story and showing their face might create repercussions for them from hateful people at school. They fear underhanded tactics that could be used against them to deport them.

But most of all, they fear for their families. They are afraid that speaking out about their situation may bring hate crimes to their back door. They are afraid that the pressure of immigration officials would intensify. They are afraid that the knowledge of where they live and places they frequent would become public knowledge and they would become targets.

They are Americans in every sense of the word, but cannot be considered American.

They are upstanding citizens who are considered criminals because they crossed an imaginary line that we created.

They are stripped of their language in our "English only" schools...only to be told in high school that we all need to learn a second language.

They are people with faces who cannot show their face.

More than 60,000 undocumented students graduate from high school each year. Until more of us speak out and create more of a momentum, they will continue to remain in the shadows.

Ramiro, a friend of mine, is working on his dreamact.com website that will put all of the DREAM Act resources in one place and make it easy to find out how to get involved with the group in your community. But, until then, you might contact your local National Council of La Raza group to seek out DREAM Act groups in your community then click here for four ways to help pass the DREAM Act. Help us create the groundswell that will allow people like Monica, Jose, and Jesse to come out of the shadows.
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