DREAM Act Debate Sadly Clouded by Ugly Rhetoric

It’s hard not to be saddened and disappointed by the Senate’s failure to pass the DREAM Act, which would provide conditional legal status to undocumented young people who either go to college or perform military service for two years. Many Senators on both sides of the aisle are passionate about the subject, in part because they’ve met these students, who are about the most compelling advocates you ever want to see. Most of them were brought to this country when they were so young that they have no recollection of their birthplaces. They speak perfect, usually unaccented English, and can’t imagine belonging to any other country. The U.S. can’t possibly be well served by denying these talented, committed young people the opportunity to go to college, serve their country, get jobs and otherwise contribute.

But the theme of the current immigration debate, which seems to get uglier by the day, seems to be that a faction in Congress is willing – even eager -- to undercut the country’s well-being in the name of looking tough on immigrants. They are being egged on by thousands of calls generated by anti-immigrant groups, some of whom have been wildly distorting the facts on the DREAM Act as well as immigrants in general. Some of these same callers also write to my organization to express their views; much of what they write is unprintable, even in a blog. Here’s an example from our mailbag this morning:

"Once again the DREAM Act amnesty bulls___t was defeated. We American citizens can smell that crap from a mile away. It's never going to happen again. The image of you f___ing arrogant ungrateful Mexican a__holes marching in American streets while chanting and waving Mexican flags is forever burned into our brains. You're finished. F___ godforsaken Mexico and f___ the lot of you scumbags. Pack up, cabrones, and get the f___ out of our country."

It’s quite a statement to a community regularly on the receiving end of this kind of sentiment that the Senate gave more credence to this kind of bigotry than they did to the valedictorians and science-fair winners who asked for their votes yesterday.