Many people are against amnesty for undocumented immigrants. I'm not really sure how I feel about amnesty for those already living in this country who are law abiding. Especially for those who have found a way to make a postive impact on their communities. Adults who choose to travel to America illegally and undocumented place their lives and their family's lives in jeopardy. It is a dangerous journey and one that has no guarantees. There are people who spend many years waiting for the chance to move the America legally and providing amnesty allows people to jump ahead in line. Yet, undocumented adult immigrants made the journey because they saw it as their best hope. Faced with a life of struggle to eat and meet basic needs, they chase the same American dream American children are taught in schools every day. The debate on amnesty will continue long after immigration reform is accomplished yet I would argue that The Dream Act is not amnesty.
Some people may wonder how giving a free residency card and potentially citizenship to undocumented immigrants under The Dream Act is not amnesty. While it is true that it has some of the same characteristics as amnesty, it is not a free pass to citizenship or permanent legal residency. Let me explain why I don't consider it amnesty.
- Amnesty is basically forgiveness for people who knowlingly broke the law. People who would benefit from The Dream Act were children when they entered the United States and were not able to decide for themselves where they wanted to live. They were not old enough to fully understand the consequences of their actions and many did not have the ability to decide but merely followed their parents' instructions.
- It's not a free handout. In order for a person to qualify for The Dream Act they must graduate from a US high school. They must then serve 2 years in our military serving our country or complete 2 years of college. This is a lot of service and definitely not free.
- It's not open to just any undocumented immigrant. Even if the person entered as a minor and graduate high school, it's still not guaranteed that they will be able to become documented. They must be of good character. Basically, they cannot commit crimes and must show that they are a benefit to society and not a drain on society.
The Dream Act isn't about granting amnest to undocumented immigrants. It's about giving hope to a generation of children who did not choose to be undocumented but are forced to live with the effects. It's about giving children an incentive to graduate from high school and succeed in college or the military so they can support themselves and their families without struggling at minimum wage (or below minimum wage) jobs who will pay cash and overlook their immigration status. Allowing all children in this country to pursue their dreams without basing those dreams on their immigration status. Think about if this was a child you knew? A child in your neighborhood, church or child's school? Wouldn't you want the best for them?
Election day is now 17 days away. As you consider the candidates, take a moment to look at the sponsors of The Dream Act. Support those candidates who realize the importance of allowing all children in US schools to dream and dream big. For those of you living in Wisconsin, I urge you to support Senator Russ Feingold. One of the many co-sponsors on The Dream Act.