Congress finally did the right thing late last Saturday night when the Senate joined the House in voting to approve the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” the absurd law that required people willing to lay down their lives for this nation to lie about themselves while in the military.
Sadly, however, having spent all of its emotional and intellectual capital getting one part of simple justice right, the august United States Senate found itself bankrupt on the matter of justice for immigrant children. Shame on the Senate for failing to pass the Dream Act!
Senator Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama who apparently has never met any of the people about whom he fulminates, claims that the Dream Act encourages “lawlessness” and is “a reward for illegal activity.” Let’s get this straight: the people who the Dream Act would help — young people brought into this country when they were babies and toddlers — want to go to college and get good jobs. What kind of “lawlessness” is that? And, as for that “reward for illegal activity” — how could those children be held responsible for committing any crimes when they were not old enough to walk and speak?
In fact, the only lawlessness that will ensue will come in the failure to educate and employ this substantial segment of the U.S. population. Poverty breeds lawlessness, not generous national policies.
Right-wing opposition to justice for immigrants reveals shocking agnosticism about our history as a nation of immigrants, as well as shameful and deliberate discrimination against certain kinds of people — those who are darker, whose customs are different from the white European norm this nation has adopted.
For most of us, two or three generations removed from the boats, our success today is a direct result of the courageous decisions made by parents and grandparents and great grands to leave their countries of birth to seek out the great American Dream on these shores. But who among us can say for certain that every single one of our immigrant ancestors came to the U.S. legally? The current campaign against illegal immigrants is not hunting down Germans of questionable ancestry. I suspect that the Arizona State Police are not stopping cars full of Irishmen or blonde blue-eyed Swedes asking for their papers or proof of their fathers’ legal status. No fences are going up across the northern border of the U.S. where those nice Canadians live. This is really about race and ethnicity. The current campaign against immigrants is less about forcing compliance with immigration laws on their face, and more about keeping certain kinds of people out of this country entirely.
This year, according to some census forecasts, births categorized as white non-Hispanic will be fewer than the majority of births for the first time in this nation. By the Year 2050, the white non-Hispanic population will be fewer than 50% of all Americans. No amount of Congressional fulminating, posturing or demagoguery will change this. Nor will the ruthless efforts to deny simple justice to the children of undocumented immigrants whose status in this nation is permanent, whether Senator Sessions and others like it or not.
Nothing is gained, except more misery and ethnic strife, by insisting that our nation maintain a permanent underclass of uneducated, unemployed, impoverished people living on the margins. Whether we agree or disagree with the methods their parents or grandparents employed to get into this country, the plain fact is that these children and young adults are here in the only nation they have ever known.
The sooner we start treating them as our own American children, the better off their families, communities and nation will be.
See: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops support for the Dream Act