When Noheli Carrasco takes charge of her teenage battalion at South Lakes High School - their rifles pointing toward the ceiling, green uniforms crisply ironed - she looks much like the military officer she wants to be.
But Carrasco, 18, is not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. And although she wants to join the Air Force after graduation and has been courted by recruiters, she is barred from enlisting.
"It's the one thing I want to do. I want to serve this country," said Carrasco, who came here with her family from Bolivia when she was 11. "I had no idea how hard it would be."
Actively courted by recruiters. Wanting to join the Air Force. Barred from enlisting. All because Republicans shot down the DREAM Act last year.
Here's what President Obama had to say about this situation in his 2011 State of the Union Address:
Today, there are hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens. Some are the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet they live every day with the threat of deportation. Others come here from abroad to study in our colleges and universities. But as soon as they obtain advanced degrees, we send them back home to compete against us. It makes no sense.
Now, I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration. And I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows. I know that debate will be difficult. I know it will take time. But tonight, let's agree to make that effort. And let's stop expelling talented, responsible young people who could be staffing our research labs or starting a new business, who could be further enriching this nation.
The Washington Post article quotes Clifford Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and defense readiness:
"Throughout past and current conflicts, those who are not yet citizens have answered the call to defend their adopted nation. Allowing DREAM Act-eligible youth the opportunity to serve this nation would continue this tradition of service while expanding the market of high-quality patriotic youth to the advantage of military recruitment and readiness."
The DREAM Act is described by Republicans and other conservatives as an amnesty program. While they hold patriotism and "love of country" in the highest esteem, they are incapable of understanding how young people like Noheli could be good Americans, it seems. The pure irony is that many these kids likely understand and revere the freedoms and responsibilities of being an American citizen far more profoundly than most American citizens do.
There does appear to be at least some hope that the DREAM Act may yet get some attention. Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson is discussing introducing legislation that would prevent someone like Noheli from being deported if she serves in the military.
Hutchison, R-Texas, told the San Antonio group that she could not support legislation that includes "amnesty" provisions of citizenship, which was included in the DREAM Act. Instead, she said, she wants a bill that would protect foreign-born students and those who serve in the military from being deported — but would not want them to receive automatic citizenship here.
"To me, it is a clear-cut issue that we should not deport young people who have been educated in our school, who many times have a college education, who we encourage to go to college..."
"But I'm working on a new DREAM Act proposal because I think there is a group of people who had no part in coming into this country illegally," Hutchison said.
An attorney in Nebraska has weighed in to say that the state's version of the DREAM Act is NOT unconstitutional.
An op-ed this week in Tuft Univerisity's student-run newspaper, Tufts Daily, says the time is now for President Obama to move on this issue with and Executive Order, bypassing Congress.
Since the DREAM Act failed last year in a democratically controlled legislature, its prospects in the new divided Congress are bleak, no matter how much President Barack Obama calls for revisiting the issue. In light of this, the only way to effectively achieve the stated goal is to issue an official directive using executive authority. This can be done with an executive order, which would require federal agencies to heed directions of the president and could include a broad prohibition of the deportation of students.
Citizen journalist Miguel Perez reports on Examiner.com that "Phoenix civil rights groups Chicanos Unidos Arizona, Take Back Aztlán, MEChA, and several undocumented Maricopa County college students have been notified by the White House that the DREAM Act will not go away. 'We will be pushing a different version of the DREAM Act this spring.'"
Want to get involved? Here are some places to start:
- Dream Activist
- The DREAM Act Portal (DAP)
- National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)
- National Council of La Raza (NCLR)
- National Immigration Law Center (NILC) - This site has a very good, comprehensive list of individuals and groups supporting the DREAM Act
I'm just sayin'...
Cross-posted at Eclectablog.com.