Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - 07:36
We often hear talk these days about failure in leadership and gutless congress people. I understand wanting to keep out of the fray. Last year, I wrote about a reasonable proposal to help young people and unwittingly tapped into a strain of people out there with an amazing amount of hatred towards kids. That experience really made me appreciate the courage displayed by Senators Richard Durbin, Patrick Leahy, and Richard Lugar in not giving up on the Dream Act and working once again to try to see it get through congress. I never knew anything about these kids until a friend in Oklahoma told me an eye-opening story. My friend works with high school science teachers, helping them learn how to add biotechnology to their courses. One teacher, in particular, really got excited about the new science activities. Her enthusiasm was shared by her students. In fact, they did so well, they won a science competition and were asked to fly somewhere to accept the prize. For many of those students, this would be their first trip on an airplane and their first trip outside of rural Oklahoma. It was pretty exciting! But there were some unexpected problems. Some of these children were illegal. What would they do at the airport when asked for ID? Just like the students on the underdog team that won the science fair, many kids are finding their teen years include a horrible surprise. Supporters of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act), claim that over 65,000 kids a year become teenagers and find out they have no country. Their dreams, their goals, their hopes for the future, mean nothing. Often the children don't even know they're illegal until it's time to get a driver's license. What do we do with them? It's heartbreaking to think of kids who've grown up here, worked hard, attended school, and were in all ways, typical American teenagers. Now what are they? Criminals? To paraphrase the title of Sunday's article in the NewsOK, College and life options are bleak for students without legal status. The NewOK article focuses on college options, but it's hard to see that there any life choices open to these kids. All they can do is hope there are sensible adults who will do the right thing and the Dream Act will pass in future sessions of congress. Under the rigorous provisions of the DREAM Act, undocumented young people could be eligible for a conditional path to citizenship in exchange for a mandatory two years in higher education or military service. Undocumented young people must also demonstrate good moral character to be eligible for and stay in conditional residency. The Dream isn't dead. And for these kids, letting go of the dream isn't an option. Portions of this post were posted earlier here.