Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My DREAM for Change

The DREAM Act. What is it, officially? It's a Bi-partisan piece of legislation that would provide paths to citizenship for young people who meet a specific list of requirements. What is it to the thousands of undocumented youth working their butts off with little to no payoff? It means a future. It means opportunity. It means hope.

Let me break it down for you.

Over the last 2 decades, when migrating to the US became the response to poverty and oppression in Mexico and Central America (other places too, but most undocumented immigrants are from this region), parents would uproot their entire family and make the difficult journey here. Many of the children were very young. Upon settling in the US, parents would enroll their children in school and they would begin their pursuit of the American dream. These children grew up, learned English, assimilated to American culture and slowly detached from their home country. Their memories of their life in Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador became few and far between. They said our pledge of allegiance at school, learned about our government on the news, were entertained and integrated into our pop culture, and sang our national anthem at sporting events.

They were becoming American in every way except on paper.

Many didn't even know they were "Illegal" until they noticed all their friends getting driver's licences or applying for part time jobs and asked their parents why they couldn't do the same. And after high school? Well many of these students went on to college, working as babysitters, house cleaners, tutors, construction workers, painters, gardeners just trying to pay the ever growing fees for tuition and books. Many did not make it past the first year in college. Some gave up on their education because it was just too difficult. Others were left with little options, forced to work more and study less until they stopped classes altogether.

But some made it through.

Some toughed it out and found an inner strength that can only be understood when witnessed first hand. Those that graduated with their BA, their masters or even their PhD, defeated all odds and got through college with NO LOANS, NO FEDERAL FINANCIAL AID, NO WORK STUDY, and in some cases NO IN-STATE TUITION.

Now what do we, as a responsible country, do with these nurses, doctors, lawyers, teachers, and engineers who are not able to put into practice the education they worked so hard for? Even more importantly, what do we, as a community of Christ followers, do with the dreams of thousands who wait in limbo? I only see 3 options.

1. Deport them all.

2. Let the status quo remain.

3. Create paths to citizenship.

I don't think Jesus is for mass deportation. The group of people we are talking about are innocent. They did not chose to break the law in coming here. They have worked hard and want to be apart of this country. In many cases, they do not know or remember much of their home country. Would it really be right to rip them away from everything they know and send them back to a place that really is foreign to them? I look at scripture and who Jesus is and I can not seem to reconcile this option with my faith. I'm really not sure how anyone could.

The status quo does not work. We have thousands of people living life in limbo who have little to no rights. I'm not sure about your Jesus, but mine is not ok with that! He is the defender of the weak. He stands up for the oppressed. He calls the Church to do the same. I can't settle for sitting back and doing nothing while so many are suffering. My faith won't allow it.

So this brings us to the 3rd option. What if we created a comprehensive path to citizenship for these young people? What if we invited these determined, hard working, intelligent, good people to come out of the shadows and live in their full potential? This is exactly what the DREAM Act would do. It is not amnesty, rather a way for deserving young people to earn their legalization. This is more than a piece of legislation. This is the future of countless young people. We need to do what's right.

Now let me take a minute to address the critics. There are far too many lies and misconceptions going around about the DREAM Act. It is my opinion that most of these false statements are rooted in one of two things: fear or entitlement. Many are afraid of what this might do. They are afraid it would encourage future illegal migration. They are afraid these students, once given citizenship, will then sponsor their families to become citizens, and so on and so forth. They are afraid it will cost too much money...the list of fears could go on and on. Many also feel entitled to their rights and privileges as American's, which means there has to be someone who is NOT entitled. They say things like, "Well what if they take the spot of an American citizen student in a university that is already difficult to get into?" of "Those are MY tax dollars, why should someone else benefit from that?" The attitude is that these undocumented students are less deserving of rights than American born students are. I would be very careful about this mentality...it is pretty blatantly anti Jesus.

Besides, there is very little legitimacy to these statements of fear and entitlement. I could write for days about all the myths out there and address just about every single one with factual statements proving this really is the only option for our country. You can find some of that here.

I, however, am more concerned with the day we all meet Jesus and when He asks us if we loved the stranger and looked after the poor. I want to be able to humbly look Him in the eyes and thank Him for who He made me through this fight. I want to praise Him for allowing me to know Him better through my feeble attempts at loving the stranger and taking care of the orphan and the widow. I want my brothers and sisters to be able to do the same.

We all need to be a lot less concerned with the impacts on us as Americans and focus our energy on being administrators of His justice, grace and love.