Politics and Immigration Reform: What Young Undocumented “Dreamers” Are Doing
In the last few years, a nation of immigrants has started to clamp down on illegal aliens. Illegal immigrants are non-citizens who have entered the country without inspection of a valid visa, or have stayed longer than their temporary admittance allows. Estimates of the number of illegal immigrants currently living in America range from 11 to 13 million. Whether these illegal immigrants should be granted citizenship or deported is an important political decision being debated in Congress heading into 2013. For some Americans, the issue is simple: All illegal immigrants should be returned to their country of origin. In Arizona, for example, new laws have escalated deportation of illegal immigrants.
For the families in the crosshairs, fears and questions linger. Some families have already been separated from each other, children often paying the steepest price. In a PBS piece, one man talks about being separated from his wife who had been deported when her place of employment was raided by a government agency.
The story raises the question as to why undocumented workers are put in jail and not the employers, who often know the are employing desperate workers willing to work at low wages—and without benefits.
As the video points out, many undocumented immigrants have children, children who grow into teenagers looking for a way to stay in America without the constant threat of deportation. The teenagers have taken to calling themselves “Dreamers,” a name derived from The Dream Act, a bill that failed in 2010 to make it past congress but, rewritten, is set to go again before Congress in 2013. The Dream Act would provide a path to citizenship for illegals who came to America as children. The youth movement has taken a central and decisive role in the fight for citizenship. Their passion and the stories they tell are crucially in moving public opinion in favor of securing amnesty.
United We Dream is an organization founded by Dreamers who have courageously stepped out and revealed their status as illegal immigrants. They aim “to address the inequities and obstacles faced by immigrant youth and to develop a sustainable, grassroots movement, led by undocumented immigrant youth and their allies.”
These youths have concentrated their pleas directly to President Obama. Latest statistics (www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2012/12/24/167970002/obama-administration-deported-record-1-5-million-people)show that under the Obama administration a record 1.5 million deportations have taken place, including a record 409,849 people during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2012. More than half of these were convicted of crimes, also a record percentage. The administration points to this as evidence that their policies are working to target dangerous illegal immigrants. In the minds of Dreamers, Obama has the power to stop these deportations. After all, “The immigrants were convinced a president who had overseen so many deportations could stop them.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/01/us/dream-act-gives-young-immigrants-a-political-voice.html?pagewanted=all). Since August 2012, Obama has given young people brought to the US as children a 2-year reprieve from deportation if they apply and qualify. Since August, 355,000 applications have been received and 103,000 have been approved.(http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2012/12/24/167970002/obama-administration-deported-record-1-5-million-people) For young undocumented immigrants, this is a welcome step, but they want more permanent reform.
Groups like the National Immigrant Youth Alliance have taken more aggressive action through organizing sit-ins and pushing for the immediate release of undocumented immigrants who have been detained. Members of the group have intentionally placed themselves in deportation proceedings to support detainees who they claim should not be in custody.
The goal of these youth led movements is to keep pressure on the White House and press for passage of the Dream Act. They sense that this is a pivotal moment in the battle. On December 2, 2012, 600 leaders of the youth movement met in Kansas City to mobilize support for the bill. They took a stand on permanent citizenship rather than settling for visas.
“This week United We Dream flexed its muscle, rejecting as “a cynical political gesture” a bill proposed by two Republican senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Jon Kyl of Arizona, that would have offered visas but no path to citizenship.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/01/us/dream-act-gives-young-immigrants-a-political-voice.html?pagewanted=all)
Opponents of changes in immigration policy claim that helping illegal immigrants gain citizenship hurts the millions of Americans already underemployed. In the presidential elections, the Hispanic vote was significantly democratic, prompting Republicans to look for new ways to address the needs of this growing demographic in America. Republicans are trying to walk a fine line with their conservative supporters who want stiffer boarder control and enforcement of immigration laws. A bill that passed the House in November 2012 would provide visas for 55,000 foreign graduates of American universities with degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/01/us/politics/house-votes-to-ease-restrictions-on-visas.html?ref=us). The bill is an important, if small, step by Republicans, although it is not likely to find support in the Democratic controlled Senate.© 2017 CYS