You got it wrong. Here’s why: The vast and overwhelmingly majority of DREAMers are not as you describe them. I know because I have interacted with them in a variety of ways in recent years. In fact, barely a week goes by that I don’t communicate directly with undocumented young person. I have taught them as a university professor. I have counseled them as a mentor. I have cast them in my plays. I have even written a play about them: “Dream Act”. It is based on those experiences that I can declare with full confidence that if there are a handful of DREAMers who have overreached (and what movement doesn’t have a few bad apples), the trouble with your column is that it implicitly argues that the movement itself is now defined by what you smugly describe as a pervasive sense of self-righteous entitlement. That claim is an irresponsible exaggeration at best and a point-blank falsehood at worse. To make matters worse, you even go a step further and condemn the movement for pursuing an agenda that you claim intentionally disregards the interests and welfare of their undocumented immigrant parents, but your own column quotes (with mocking disdain, it must be noted) United We Dream’s recently announced platform that calls for “Fair treatment for DREAMers and our families and communities”. You also contradict yourself by first noting, accurately, that some “80 percent” of Americans polled support efforts to legalize the immigration status of DREAMers, while going on claim that popular support for DREAMers is supposedly waning and that the movement’s purported sense of self-importance threatens to torpedo now reinvigorated efforts in Congress to pass a comprehensive federal immigration reform bill early next year. And what evidence do you cite to support this claim? A quote from Arnold Torres, a respected political observer and former director of the national League of United Latin American Citizens, who also happens to be, as you note, your business partner. While Mr. Torres is entitled to his opinion, he, too, provides no tangible evidence that the DREAMers cause is falling out of favor or that anyone in Congress believes that these young people, as well organized and passionate as they are, have the power to single-handedly derail the long overdue but apparently growing national consensus that our country’s immigration system must be fixed and that now is the time to do it.
Ultimately, the DREAMers, as a collective, as a movement, as a product of our political system, and as a living and breathing example of civic engagement that is living up the fundamental ideals of democracy deserve not your disdain and callous ridicule, but our nation’s respect and admiration. I am proud to imagine these young people as tomorrow’s leaders. And I am inspired, not put off, by the fact that even though they are undocumented, they are nevertheless courageous enough to risk their freedom, and not for the sake of a selfish demand, as you have cast it, but in the name of a quintessentially American principle: our sense of justice and fair play.
The DREAMers’ struggle, whether you care to acknowledge it or not, is our struggle. (And I’m not talking about the Latino struggle, but the American struggle.) The “demands” they make are not rooted in a sense of self-serving entitlement, but in the clear-headed understanding that whether they are undocumented or not the Constitution affords them certain civil and human rights, even as it effectively negates or obfuscates others.
Yet, I agreed wholeheartedly with at least one point your column makes. You are right in stating that “…these kids are as American as they come. They may have been born in another country, but — unlike their parents — they were raised in this one. They bleed red, white and blue…”
They certainly do. So let’s give them their due. That’s all they want. And, yes, they deserve it.
James E. Garcia