Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Guest Post: A Pulitzer Prize Winner and the Dream Act

Last month José Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, revealed that he is an undocumented immigrant. One can read about his journey in countless stories on the internet or watch an interview. He came from the Philippines when he was 12 and did not find out until several years later that he did not have proper documentation. From a very poor family, his mother sent him to live with his grandparents in San Francisco in order to have a better life. He has lived all these years with incorrect documents, but he has made quite a career for himself. In the interview he talks about the constant fears and contradictions of living without proper papers.

Last week Senator Durbin of Illinois again brought the Dream Act before Congress. This is another chance for legislators to do justice for the hundreds of thousands of high schoolers who are here without legal status. They came when they were small and have finished their studies. This is a whole generation with potential that could contribute to the country in so many ways. Vargas is a sterling example.

Those who speak against it say that these kids take jobs away from young citizens. Perhaps this is so in the very short term, but the longer view is that they will generate jobs and move the market forward, as well as become full-tax paying participants in the economy. Another argument is that this will encourage illegal immigration. Really? How does waiting years and years for a chance to enter a legal process that itself will take years encourage immigration? What kind of ‘plan’ is that?! The Dream Act is for those who are already here and who meet certain qualifications. In no way is it an open door policy. Others say that U.S. kids have to pay out-of-state tuition if they come in from elsewhere. The fallacy of that argument is that these kids have been living where they are for years. A U.S. citizen can move to a new state and get residency in another state usually in a year. If a U.S. citizen were living as long as they had in a state, they would pay in-state tuition.

None of these kinds of arguments against the Dream Act are moral, let alone biblical. They are misinformed perspectives about the contents of the bill and actual immigration patterns and motivations, and they are designed to raise the emotional quotient.

As Christians, we need to focus the discussions on the biblical value of people and the mandate to love the neighbor (even our enemies!). How many more José Antonio Vargases are there? How much energy could they generate for the common good!

M. Daniel Carroll Rodas, who celebrates his heritage from both Guatemala and the United States, joined the faculty of Denver Seminary in 1996. He currently is Distinguished Professor of Old Testament. He is the author of Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible. This article was originally posted on Danny's blog: Immigration and Other Matters hosted at Denver Seminary and is cross-posted here by permission of the author.

Please note that the views expressed by guest bloggers represent their own personal views, and not necessarily those of everyone associated with Loving the Stranger or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.

Note: Jose Antonio Vargas has a website, Define American.