My Painful Withdrawal of Support for the DREAM Act
by Raúl Al-qaraz Ochoa
17 September 2010
I have supported the DREAM Act, despite my critiques and concerns over the military service component. In fact, I was one of the arrestees at the sit-in at John McCain’s office in Tucson, AZ; an act of civil disobedience where four brave undocumented students risked deportation and put the DREAM Movement back in the national political stage. I made peace with my participation because I felt I was supporting the self-determination of a movement led by undocumented youth and I felt we could subvert the component that was to feed undocumented youth into the military pipeline if we developed a plan to support youth to the college pathway.
First, let me say that I applaud and admire the tireless work you have all done for the past 10 years. Your commitment and dedication parallels giant student movements of the Civil Rights era. Your persistence in organizing even when the world turned their back on you is inspiring; your creativity in tactics, visuals and media strategy is amazing. Your movement gives hope to hundreds of students I have come across here in Arizona and beyond. It is because of your grassroots efforts—not the politicians’ nor the national Hispanic organizations’—that the Dream is still alive and has come this far. As an organizer with permanent resident status privilege, let me assert that your cause for access to college and path to legalization is just. No one can tell you that what you are fighting for is wrong.
With that said, I want to share how I am deeply appalled and outraged at how Washington politics are manipulating and co-opting the dream. I understand that some folks may say, “we just want the DREAM Act to pass regardless”, but it is critical to examine the political context surrounding DREAM in its current state. It is disturbing to see how Democrats are attaching our community’s dreams for education/legalization to a defense appropriations bill. This is grotesque in a number of ways:
1) Democrats are using the DREAM Act as a political stunt to appeal to Latino voters for the November elections because it is seen as “less” threatening than a broad immigration reform. The Democrats have the political will to recently unite and pass a border militarization bill in a matter of hours ($600 million!), yet they won’t pass a broader immigration reform? And now they are up for the DREAM Act? I’m glad they feel the pressure of the Latino voting bloc, but they obviously do not care about our lives, they only seek to secure their seats in November—which by the way look very jeopardized if they don’t move quickly to energize their “base”. They are also seeking to secure the gay vote with the gradual repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy as part of this same defense bill. All in all, insincere, token political gestures only serve to stall real justice.
2) Democrats are telling me that if I support access to education for all my people, I must also support the U.S. war machine with $670 billion for the Pentagon? Does this mean I have to support the military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan? By supporting the DREAM Act, does this mean I automatically give a green light for U.S. forces to continue invading, killing and raping innocent people all over the world? This is really unfair. Here in Arizona I struggle with a climate of fear and terror. Yet even though I am so far away, I hear the cries of Arab mothers who are losing their children in U.S. sponsored bombings and massacres. There’s a knot in my throat because victims of U.S. aggression abroad look just like us… victims of U.S. aggression at home. This ugly and twisted political system is dividing us and coercing us into supporting the funding of more bloodshed and more destruction if we want the DREAM Act to pass. Does this mean that our dreams will rest upon the nightmares of people that suffer globally? Obviously, students that call their Senators are supporting their future NOT bloodshed abroad, but we have to be responsible to the larger political implications of this.
3) Democrats are vilifying and criminalizing our parents. A really insulting argument prominently used for passing the DREAM Act that I keep hearing over and over is that because undocumented students “didn’t choose to come to the U.S. to break the laws of this country” you shouldn’t have to pay for the “sins” or “illegal behavior” of your parents. Are they serious?!? It is not okay to allow legislation to pass that will stand on and disrespect the struggle, sacrifice and dignity of our parents. What about blaming U.S. led capitalist and imperialist policies as the reasons that create our “refugee” populations. Our parents’ struggle is not for sale. We must not fall for or feed into the rhetoric that criminalizes us or our parents. We all want justice, but is it true justice if we have to sell out our own family members along the way?
Again, I support this fight–it’s part of a larger community struggle. It’s personal to all of us. Passage of the DREAM Act would definitely be a step forward in the struggle for Migrant Justice. Yet the politicians in Washington have hijacked this struggle from its original essence and turned dreams into ugly political nightmares. I refuse to be a part of anything that turns us into political pawns of dirty Washington politics. I want my people to be “legalized” but at what cost? We all want it bad. I hear it. I’ve lived it. but I think it’s a matter of how much we’re willing to compromise in order to win victories or crumbs.
This again proves how it is problematic to lobby the state and put all our efforts in legislation to pass. We should know that this political route is always filled with racism, opportunism, betrayals and nightmares. History repeats itself once again.
So if I support the DREAM Act, does this mean I am okay with our people being used as political pawns? Does this mean that my hands will be smeared with the same bloodshed the U.S. spills all over the world? Does this mean I am okay with blaming my mother and my father for migrating “illegally” to the U.S.? Am I willing to surrender to all that in exchange for a benefit? Maybe it’s easier for me to say that ”I can” because I have papers, right? I’d like to think that it’s because my political principles will not allow me to do so, regardless of my citizenship status or personal benefit at stake. Strong movements that achieve greater victories are those that stand in solidarity with all oppressed people of the world and never gain access to rights at the expense of other oppressed groups.
I have come to a deeply painful decision: I can no longer in good political conscience support the DREAM Act because the essence of a beautiful dream has been detained by a colonial nightmare seeking to fund and fuel the U.S. empire machine.
I am so sorry and so enraged that this larger political context has deferred those dreams of justice and equality that we all share.
In tears, rage, love and sorrow,
Latino Youth Defines DREAM Act as a De Facto Military Draft
By VAMOS Unidos Youth
We write this statement to raise our voices as Latino youth working and living in the Bronx, New York in opposition to the DREAM ACT as it stands. We demand that we return to our original DREAM ACT that had a community service option instead of a military one. The military has been losing their numbers due to the multiple wars the US has begun. The DREAM ACT would hand us over on a platter to fight these unjust wars. The DREAM ACT has been warped over the years to draft Latino youth into the military, as they need more and more soldiers to fight their wars.
We have been living under harsh conditions. Our communities have been historically underprivileged, with militarized streets, schools that seem more like jails than educational institutions, and poverty that pushes people to desperation and sadness. We have grown up with the trauma of having our family members and friends detained, jailed, and deported. But we are strong and determined, so we keep onwards. We have stood next to our parents as they worked as street vendors, as they were ticketed, arrested, and sometimes assaulted by police for trying to make a living. We, as youth, have also been ticketed and arrested alongside our parents. We have come to understand what it is to be humiliated and then stand and fight for what is right, what is principled, what is just. Our parents’ unrelenting strength to fight for us and their rights have taught us to always stand up for what is right and never sell out.
We have asked ourselves “Is the DREAM ACT an advantage or disadvantage for us as immigrant youth?” Many of us were exited about the possibility of getting documents and finally being able to be recognized as human beings, be able to get a job, an education, and help our families. Along with our teachers and mentors we delved into community organizing and becoming politically conscious. We began learning about our history and our people’s resistance. We then expanded to other cultures and histories and began to appreciate them. We marched side by side with youth from all over the world including South Asia and the Middle East. We saw that within our hearts there was no difference, and enjoyed each other’s company and diversity. Our spirits were momentarily paralyzed when we began learning about the effects of war and how their families and communities had been destroyed. We began to ask ourselves “How can we stop these wars, how can we help?” Our political education allowed us to see through the military propaganda and the army recruiters in our blocks and schools. Speaking to our peers we saw how the military was using them to fight wars tha didn’t concern us and killed our friends. This forced us to look at the DREAM ACT a lot closer.
THE DREAM ACT REVEALED
In order to qualify for the DREAM ACT you have to have migrated before the age of 16 and have proof of residence in the United States for five consecutive years since the date of arrival. Also, you have to have graduated from high school or have a GED. This would eliminate many of our older youth, those that did not finish high school, and recent arrivals. You must then complete the following:
- Serve two years in the military, or;
- Finish two years of bachelor’s program or higher degree in the US.
What happened to the community service option that the original DREAM ACT contained? Why did our supposed advocates allow for the removal of the community service option? Was it because it became in this form the DREAM ACT became winnable? At what expense?
Two Years of College
The first option on the DREAM ACT is to go to school for at least two years; this is great for people who can afford the high tuition rates. But what about those of us who do not have enough money for the tuition, the books, and personal expenses? Also let’s not forget about our families who have more than one undocumented child who needs to go to school to get their papers.
DREAM ACT proponents say that most people will not go to the military, that they can afford school if we work. Unfortunately those folks are distanced from our realities and don’t understand our economic hardships. We broke down the cost of each year in school without the aid of Pell Grants or Financial Aid for attending two years of a four years University; our calculations were the following for a university in Ohio, which does not allow in-state tuition for undocumented students:
Cleveland State University: Out of State
- 12 Credit Hours – $7,884.00 X 2 = 1 Year = $15,768.00 X 2 years = $31,536.00
- Expenses for Students Living at Home with their Parents = $6,568.00 X 2 years = 13,136.00
- GRAND TOTAL = $44,672.00
Only 10 states allow for undocumented students to pay for in-state tuition. The majority of undocumented youth would have to pay amounts as stated in the example above. We are lucky to be in New York as it is one of the states that allow undocumented youth to apply for in-state tuition. At the same time we understand that by accepting the terms under the DREAM ACT most youth would not have the same opportunity we do here in New York. Undocumented youth in states like North Carolina, Virginia, Illinois, Ohio, New Mexico would be forced to take the military option in large numbers as they would not be able to pay the high prices of education. For this reason we do not support the DREAM ACT.
Two Years of Military Requirement
We, the VAMOS UNIDOS YOUTH, do not support the DREAM ACT due to the military component. The fact that it has been introduced as a defense appropriation bill adds insult to injury. The DREAM ACT is a de facto military draft, forcing undocumented youth to fight in unjust wars in exchange for the recognition as human beings, a Green Card. This is a trick by the politicians, Democratic Party, and DC immigration advocates. The same way many supposed “advocates” for immigrant rights sold out the community with Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR), they now sell us out with the DREAM ACT. We stand against any militarization- whether it is of the border, our communities, or our status. We will not kill innocent people in exchange for Green Cards.
Our parents have firmly stated in their fight for immigration reform, “We will not accept papers tainted with the blood of our people still crossing the border and dying,” in regards to CIR and it’s militarization of the border component. We say the same “We will not be used for the wars of the corporations and the rich in any part of the world in exchange of blood-stained immigration papers.”
We make a call out to all community organizations and allies to stand firmly on what is principled, against the DREAM ACT if it contains the military provision. Our fight will not be won in one or two years. We are prepared to organize our communities and struggle for many years. We cannot negotiate out our lives, our dignity, and the lives of others. We must rethink our strategies and take control away from the DC immigration advocates which have shown us they don’t have our interest. They have watered down good legislation at a very high cost to the community. Our communities need to decide and take control. We stand with our brothers and sisters affected by wars; we feel their pain and desperation. We will not be used to decimate other countries and their people. Thus, we stand together against the DREAM ACT with the militarization component and fight for what is principled, even if it takes us a very long time.
VAMOS UNIDOS YOUTH
14 thoughts on “Two Responses to the Failure of the DREAM Act”
Wow, I support the VAMOS UNIDOS YOUTH, I too think this is a ploy to get more people to war. This changes my perspective on the DREAM ACT completely…thanks
I have mad respect for the folks who put out these statements and am excited for the possibilities of building an anti-imperialist immigrant rights movement that also has strong class struggle politics. It is true many of these energies might have been activated by the Dream Act, but it doesnt need to stop that and rather than chasing this bill, perhaps we can put our energies toward asking what can come next.
As we think about Dream Act and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell both being interwoven opportunistically into the Defense Appropriations Bill by the Democrats, we cannot avoid the ways in which the capitalists and war mongers try to capture the fervor and imaginations of queer and immigrant rights movements. Our queer struggles and immigrant rights struggle need to stand for a common vision so we dont all get played and seek liberations in war-induced PTSD, deaths and violence.
One thing I am drawing from Mike Davis and Justin Akers Chacon’s “No One is Illegal”, is how the War on Terror and border militarization are really intertwined. The immigration debate in Congress has been shaped by the need of the Democrats to prove to the Republicans that they can be just as tough as them when it comes to national security. In their eyes, the biggest threats to national security are always external – “illegals” and Muslims top the list as the fifth column degenerating the US of its Anglo-American character. That is why when Timothy McVeigh happened, the first thing Clinton did was blame it on the immigrants and made all sorts of legal violations deportable. All this, while continuing to extract labor from immigrants.
My point is that Davis and Chacon make a good case for how US imperialism in the Middle East is not going to liberate immigrants here in the US because it will only continue to shift the debate to the right and further enhance the need for border security, and the militarization of US society. It is like that poem, “First they came.” The boundaries of what is acceptable censorship and control by the state within the US is changed drastically on a large scale by the War on Terror. The need for the immigrant rights movement to integrate a strong anti-imperialist perspective is not just an ideological thing. It is a very practical thing for the movement. The recent raids on Palestine and Colombian solidarity activists show that the FBI dont see the difference between any form of resistance movement in the Middle East and Latin America.
All this is not to say that the demands for accessible, higher education for undocumented folks can only be pursued when the anti-war movement succeeds. Rather, it is that we have to fight the rulers on all fronts toward the same vision of anti-imperialism and class struggle, but from specific yet united platforms of anti-war, immigrant rights and demand for access to education for all.
I am constantly amazed by how the rulers have such ambition to derail movements and try to get one movement to shift the dynamics of another, so that we get tricked into moving toward the same sad goal that they have crafted for us. They know how to make use of our values to make us fight internally. I think we need to see through the ways these rulers think and apply it in constructive ways to ourselves. As builders of organizations and participants of movements, how do we capture the imaginations, energies and dynamics of movements we are involved in, which are now seen currently as separate, and try to get them to shape and influence one another toward a liberatory vision? Sorry if this sounds abstract!! I think I hope we are able to experiment, analyze and practice together as revolutionaries thinkers and organizers.
good points, JOMO.
i think the other dimension of this discussion is the role of the U.S. military in causing immigration.
many undocumented peoples have left their families behind and risked their lives crossing the border because their ability to earn a living in their countries of birth has been destroyed by either U.S. military intervention, or by U.S. financial & economic domination.
the same forces that have destroyed working class and revolutionary movements, unions, community organizations and other forms of social solidarity in Latin America are the same that murder, jail, enslave, and deny living wages to immigrant and undocumented labor in the U.S.
attacks on Brown folks is occurring on both sides of the border by the U.S. state and its all of its armed forces; not just what’s referred to as “the military” but also ICE and local police.
As this debate intensifies, I am definitely clarifying my position. At the same time as I figure out my personal position, internal struggles within local organizing are occurring regarding the Dream Act. Some budget cuts activists are demanding we immediately come out with a full statement of support for the Dream Act. One article that has been presented in support of the Dream Act is here – http://www.truth-out.org/dream-movement-challenges-with-social-justice-elites-military-option-arguments-and-immigration-refo. Part of the article argues the same thing I’m repeatedly facing through online discussions and one-on-one interactions – the privilege politics dimension, and the assertion by pro Dream Act folks that 1. Documented people do not have the right to tell undocumented people what battle is right or wrong, or whether or not to support the Dream Act, and 2. The immigration community is united in their support of the Dream Act and therefore documented people must support this right to self-determination. The article states:
“Our so-called allies need to realize that they are not undocumented and, as such, do not have the right to say what undocumented youth need or want. Our progressive allies insist in imposing their paternalistic stand to oppose the DREAM Act and tell us that this is not the “right” choice for us to acquire “legal” status in this country. We wonder: Who are they to decide for us? And by what criteria do they deem the DREAM Act not to be the “right” legislation for undocumented youth to become “legal” in this country?”
This accusation carries an untenable weight, and that is why is so effective in silencing opposition to the Dream Act. And this accusation was actually working – I was getting tripped up on it, feeling like I couldn’t critique the Act because I’m not undocumented. Here’s the problem: The accusation is blatantly wrong: The immigrant community and specifically, immigrant organizers, are strongly divided over the Dream Act. This body of people is not 100% in support of the Dream Act like supporters of the Dream Act pretend (in their descriptions of critics always being white male lefties), but is in fact extremely divided as this post shows. And, as have been pointed out in other locations, it’s ironic that supporters of the Act accuse people against it as the political elite and privileged, since the Dream Act is IN BED with the Democrats, and are being used as a pawn by the Dems to gain votes.
However, I also want to respond to a number that is being tossed around that only 10% of undocumented immigrants would be affected by the Dream Act. I do not know where this number comes from and how it was decided, and can’t find the number’s source anywhere. This relates to the fact that I am unclear if the Dream Act will reverse the current policy in which undocumented students pay out of state tuition for in state schools. Will the Act allow undocumented students to pay the same as everyone else? Is this where the 10% number comes from? If it is because the Dream Act will NOT reverse the out of state tuition thing, I think that’s extremely important, in that it really does clarify who the Dream Act concerns – people will enough money to pay absurd out of state costs for school. If that’s the case, and the 10% means that only 10% of undocumented students can afford out of state tuition, that’s a helpful thing to stress in future discussions/debates. I’d also say that if the Dream Act does NOT reverse the out of state tuition cost, that specific point should be incorporated into our demands and rhetoric about the right of all undocumented people to an education that they can actually afford.
However, regardless of the out-of-state vs in-state tuition, I find referring to this 10% as “elite,” as has been tossed around, problematic. I’m not sure I agree with the notion that we don’t need to worry about protecting the interests of these “elite” but rather concern ourselves with the struggles of everyday undocumented folks. To be honest, I’m not sure how to conceive of an undocumented person who can’t attend school, who can’t be safe walking down the street, and who risks the threat of incarceration and separation from their family at any second, as an elite. Even if they are in that 10%, elite is not the right word. The same question could be applied to many struggles – gay marriage, civil rights, etc. Would we not have supported students sitting in a lunch counters to desegregate them because most black people wouldn’t have even had enough money to eat lunch there? Would we have said – your struggle reflects a narrow sector of the black population so we do not support it?”
I would really like some more information on two things:
1. Where did the 10% number come from and how was it deduced?
2. More information on the relationship between the Democrats and the Dream Act and how exactly DREAMers are being used as political pawns.
Thanks, JOMO, for your comments. In Texas, we have seen first hand how the rulers have intervened and de-railed what could have potentially been the strongest immigrant rights movement since 2006.
Last year, the DREAMers on our campus approached us and asked us to help plan a sit-in. While we have always had reservations about the DREAM Act, due to the military component (see all the arguments above–we agree 100%), the sit-in in Senator McCain’s office last May signaled to us a clear break to the left. And while the leadership of the DREAM movement made it clear that we were NOT to make demands for amnesty at their rallies, we reasoned that their actions had leapt beyond their politics. We sought ways to show support and solidarity for the militancy of their tactics, while constructively challenging their words. We did not end up helping with the sit-in, for logistical reasons and it did not end up happening, though a few TX DREAMers sat-in at the July DC action. We were excited to see this militancy coming from these folks in TX and were looking forward to further dialogue with them on the politics of the DREAM Act.
However, as the fall semester began, we watched as the leaders of the DREAM movement smashed the from-below activity of its own rank-and-file. As recipients of funding from the Democratic Party, the leaders were told by the author of the DREAM Act to IMMEDIATELY STOP ALL ACTS OF CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE. The leaders readily agreed and proceeded to stifle the militant politicization that was occurring among the folks who sat-in at the DC protest. Shortly thereafter, the bill was attached to the Defense Appropriations Bill and we found ourselves at a DREAM rally on campus, reading signs like “Support our future troops,” “I’m ready to serve,” and hearing speeches that highlighted the fact that the DREAMers “speak English fluently,” essentially arguing that the more assimilationist an undocumented person is, the more worthy they are of citizenship. And now, by openly pushing the military option they were willing more than ever to throw other undocumented folks under the bus. Not to mention the millions of folks in US-occupied countries.
This is not the same as the SNCC lunch counter actions that Alma refers to. Yes, SNCC’s actions only affected a minority of Black folks, but the movement did not merrily throw those un-affected under the bus, nor did they argue for assimilation and divide those who could afford lunch counters from those who could not between “good” and “bad” Black folks.
As Alma mentions above, The Social Worker, has said that only 10% of undocumented folks go to college (and less than that will actually finish college and will thereby be cut off from the path to citizenship). (http://socialistworker.org/2010/09/17/hijacking-the-dream-act). This raises a question: if from-below militancy is essentially being controlled from above by the Democratic Party and the DREAMers are demanding citizenship only for themselves, on the backs of more than 90% of undocumented folks, is the DREAM Act a movement that is now led by an undocumented elite?
As a Revolutionary, I am not opposed to making transitional demands. However, if the DREAM Act is a demand of the undocumented elite, or, at the very least, a group of folks who are hoping to become the recent immigrant elite, we can no longer support the Act. The line has been drawn.
It is clear from this post that many others agree. However, as Alma mentioned, the leaders of the DREAM movement are privilege-baiting those of us on the left who have pointed out this right-reversal and movement co-optation. We are seeing this here in TX as well. Of course we realize that all undocumented folks have an unique experience linked to their non-citizenship status, and their liberation is their own task. Alma emphasizes this point very well. Undocumented students are forced to make major sacrifices and we need to take that seriously. However, the ways in which folks struggle against this unique form of oppression must be drawn back on the terms of the undocumented working class, the way SNCC’s lunch counter demands were one piece of a larger de-segregation campaign. The DREAM Act does not do this. We do not have to be undocumented to know that amnesty is something that ALL undocumented folks benefit from and therefore should be the demand at the forefront, not a dirty word that is forbidden from being spoken at rallies.
To the rank-and-file of the DREAM movement: we support you, the courage and militancy that you have put forward in your fight for citizenship. We are ready to fight alongside you for amnesty or other demands that will benefit everyone, not just tomorrow’s recent immigrant elite. One example at the University of Texas would be open enrollment and free tuition, coupled with legislation that offers citizenship for all students (without the military option!). There are many other examples. We are ready for these fights and are excited at the possibilities of organizing with you.
By the way, sorry this post is so long…
Great, great post Sarah.
I also wanted to post a comment I really like attacking the privilege politics baiting. The comment was left on the truthout article I referred to above. The comment reads –
I would say there is a certain privilege in living in an oppressor country that isn’t occupied by the largest empire in the world. This is the kind of privilege that drives some to support the military provision of the dream act, and the inclusion of the it on the defense authorization bill. There are plenty of undocumented people against the dream act, there are many citizens for it and many against it. You can’t citizen-bait away discussion, it makes the movement seem undemocratic and top-down. It seems like the movement can’t win the argument on solid political grounds, so it resorts to moralism and identity politics. “You should support it because people support it” doesn’t work, the same people who are pro-SB1070 could use this.
And stop denying that there are undocumented immigrants against the dream act because of the military provision; I know more than a few who have had their voices silenced. I support the dream act, very critically, but the tone of this article and the activists I’ve met make the movement seem very top down movement and undemocratic movement, more linked to the objectives of the Democratic Party than undocumented immigrants.
I find it hypocritical that a movement with a clear agenda tied to the Democratic Party is calling out the social justice “elite.” Basically, these are the point that support and fund them. In this movement, what immigrants want is clearly subordinate to what Democratic Party politicians want.
Greetings, everybody. It took me awhile to respond to this article (mostly because I’ll admit I was fatigued to the debate) but since I brought it up with an individual member I thought I should here. I’m in the critically supportive of the dream movement camp. I wanted to comment on this:
“is the DREAM Act a movement that is now led by an undocumented elite? ”
My experience witnessing the activism in the Dream Act in different states is no. It might be in Austin, but from what I can tell the radical cores that brought the issue to the forefront from LA to Chicago still exist, although obviously as different developments emerged (like attaching it to the spending bill) the questions around supporting it became a lot more complicated. I also have a bit of a problem calling any undocumented population elite, just from my own past experience of who gets green cards vs. who doesn’t. And because I know many of the young people involved around the Act and they’re far from the emerging middle class layers. I think the desire behind the act was pretty simple: young immigrants wanted a way to stay in the country, and in the face of a lack of any real amnesty push got behind something they believed could at least be a stop gap measure for themselves.
We can and should debate the military aspects and the overall tactic but I think we need to keep the main motivation in mind (in other words I don’t think it’s productive to call what can now be accurately described as thousands of new activists immigrant elite). The elite who have made themselves involved – as one of you said co-opted- are the dems, the RIFAS, and all the non-profits that accurately anticipated the momentum from young people behind the act and quickly made their own branches of “dream act” groups to pull from grassroots groups that were the initiators of this movement. That wasn’t enough for me to divert support from all the movement in the last month or two, though.
I thought the effects of the Dream Act were being exaggerated either way (it wasn’t as easy as amnesty for all potential students, nor were a thousand new troops suddenly going to be swept up once it passed) – if anything it would simply add another layer to the existing bureaucracy around immigration – for many reasons the state is still very resistant to any sure “pathway” to citizenship – even something as “assimilationist” as the Dream Act. But I believe many supported it for the same reason it was also obvious to many of us a year back it would never pass – because it would be a large shift in momentum for the immigrant rights movement, because it could have emboldened many activists (not all, especially considering in the final weeks there were thousands of people with mixed politics) that brought the issue to the forefront with militancy.
I have to say, this presents a problem for the left:
“One example at the University of Texas would be open enrollment and free tuition, coupled with legislation that offers citizenship for all students (without the military option!).”
The dream act was a tactic mostly adapted to be urgent and pragmatic, I don’t see a very protracted struggle for free university tuition (which seems very far away at this moment even for citizens) capturing 1/20th of that mass without some sort of more immediate transitional demand, but I hope I’m wrong about that. I also don’t know if we ourselves would not be playing up to an idea of legalizing the “elite” if we advocate legislation for the citizenship of a minority of students and not include the thousands of people already serving in the military (which then presents the dilemma of a military option).
“mostly adapted” I meant mostly adopted, or more accurately mostly accepted (the adapting was mostly dc politicos).
……….and that’s about all I got on that.
A few thoughts:
I also disagree with the idea of an undocumented elite. I dont think wanting to go to school, struggling everyday to be able to attend school, and graduate, makes undocumented college students elite. We dont say that school attendance and struggles to go to school make US citizens elite, and so the standard should apply to undocumented students too.
That said, the sentiments Sarah is expressing here resonate with me. The issue with the Dream Act is not so much that it benefits only a small number of undocumented students, but more so that this Dream Act struggle divides the immigrant struggle into those who are able to attend college (and are thus deserving of papers) and those who are unable to attend college (and are thus deserving of the military, and…subsequent PTSD, death, disabilities, 8? years of endless warfare etc, to get their papers).
In the climate of increasing tuition rates and exclusive education, the latter will increasingly become an option.
I was very touched by Raúl Al-qaraz Ochoa’s letter in particular because of the point he makes about how the Dream Act sponsors/Democrats are vilifying and criminalizing our parents.
In my experience, successful immigrant rights campaigns, such as the 2006 immigrant rights movement/walkout/strike and the organizing of Immokalee farmworkers, were all powerful in popularizing the fact that immigrants are a crucial part of the US economy and the deprivation of rights is part and parcel of the need to create a subordinated and cheap labor force for this country. In addition, what was often discussed in light of successful immigrant actions, were the questions of, why did immigrants come to the US in the first place? This often brought about conversations around NAFTA, of US imperialism in Latin America and around the world etc. The emergence of the Minute Men and heightened Border Patrol also created a climate of solidarity with those who risk lives to cross borders to eke out a living.
During that same time period, in light of a powerful and bustling immigrant rights movement, the legislators introduced the military component into the Dream Act so that it was no longer about education and community service but now about education for a few, and endless military tours for many others. The guarantee of in-state tuition was also removed, thus making the former an even smaller percentage.
This was an ingenious thing for the state to do from the top down. A bustling immigrant rights movement that contained messages of unity, where high school walkouts in 2006 coincided with strikes in many immigrant workplaces, of solidarity with immigrants crossing the border, is now channeled into a question of: should immigrants join the military in times of low recruitment, to get papers? Who are the “good immigrants with good moral standing” and who are the “bad ones” that deserve to be deported?
The potential for a very dynamic immigrant rights movement that connects with the histories of struggles of immigrants from their home countries, is now reduced to a question of whether immigrants should support US imperialism in their quest toward citizenship and papers. Whereas the movement once posed questions that broke down, and expanded what “American” meant, now the Dream Act struggle is geared toward accepting what the state defines as American: military service and subservience to US imperialism.
And this tension is exemplified very personally in immigrant families, where we are then, in the course of struggle, told to point to our parents and disown their struggles to forefront our own, to be the good Americans while they, the bad immigrants. This is very painful.
I say this not to piss on all the people who have been inspired by the mobilization around the Dream Act, or who have done courageous things to struggle for college access. I say this because for every person taking part in movements for liberation, we should be humble enough to be thinking critically about what we are struggling for, and accept challenges. This is part of a democratic culture of organizing as well. Yes, there are many youth who are organizing around the Dream Act, and we need to support youth mobilization, but that does not mean we do it uncritically. That would be demeaning.
I support the campaigns that Sarah outlines they are doing in ATX. I think it is absolutely crucial that we pose an alternative to the Dream Act mobilization, that point toward more liberatory visions. I would argue that our ability to do this in a democratic, youthful, supportive manner that embraces our elders and communities, is our best contribution to supporting the energies of youth around us and growing this movement.
You bring up serious points. I guess I don’t understand the logic of counterposing the Dream Act versus amnesty for all in the longer term. The Dream Act activism has mainly come to light in the last year (after all the crappier aspects were already added) from a pretty niche group – youth, not particularly workers, etc. If I felt somehow I had to choose between one or the other obviously I wouldn’t, but I don’t see how that was the situation or is for most immigrant communities. The largest Dream Act events in Atlanta I attended drew old, young, workers, etc. If they didn’t directly benefit they felt their kids, their siblings, etc. could. The main push was for Dream Act as a stand alone bill this year with the expectation we’ll obviously have a much bigger fight on our hands when “CRI” (which our biggest task as radicals will be trying to infuse the call for amnesty in all of that) comes up next year/s.
The Dream Act was a challenge in itself, it was by far not an easy thing (obviously the odds were way stacked against something like that passing this year in any form). I would have liked to see it pass because I’ve seen the effect of years of defeats on the immigration movement.
I think *some* radicals have on rose colored glasses when they look back at ’06. It was very exciting to see thousands in the streets, but this was far from a core that was ready to radicalize or organized enough to push for amnesty in the next year. It was a mass mobilization, filled with all types, from soldiers to students to day workers waving American flags, etc. The thing that really effected, personally, work I was around was in 2007, when an onslaught of reactionary anti-immigrant legislation started coming at us federally, state-wide and locally. I heard this all the time, as did other folks I knew in other parts of the country “we tried the marches, it didn’t work, they came down harder on us”. There was a general fear around mobilization in large parts of the country, specifically parts of the south. The Dream Act was really the first bold movement I saw to come along and counter that. The coming out of the shadows day and coining the term undocumented and unafraid was, to me, beautiful to see (by youth).
“now the Dream Act struggle is geared toward accepting what the state defines as American: military service and subservience to US imperialism.”
There are a few thousand people left out of that analysis – students. The ones who initiated it and the ones would largely take advantage of it. One thing left out of a lot of this conversation – there’s already an effective service to green card law, it was passed in the wake of 9/11 (when it also became difficult to obtain a green card in most other contexts). I’ve read stats that suggest as many as 32,000 non-citizens were enlisted by the time the Iraq war was initiated (including the first soldier to die there, a Guatemalan). This is pretty well known to any recruiter, immigration lawyer, teenager looking for a green card to stay.
So while the Dream Act didn’t necessarily change the dynamic of service for green card (although it would make citizenship a surer thing for undocumented vets, many of whom still face problems with benefits) it does bring being a student into the mix as a way to obtain a green card or fight off deportation. I only say this to say that the thousands of students currently in college who would benefit from this and in high school are mostly not pushing for it to strap up and go appease imperialism. Those people carrying a sign that said “I want to serve” can already do that, but the students on deportation lists right now can’t go to school and have that fulfill a requirement. I’d love to see a community service option, I’d love to see amnesty for all, heck I’d love to see an overthrow of capitalism. But as for today I don’t see how the Dream Act was a step backward, but I respect those who disagree. There’s a lot of other stuff we all can definitely agree on and work together for, and next year/year after that will be a big one for immigration.
“but this was far from a core that was ready to radicalize” – I meant the mass taken as a whole of millions of people, not that there weren’t many in there who were/very quickly can be radical.
I really wish I knew how to read spanish. Im really curious how the spanish speaking world feels about all this. Those outside of the states that is…
I just read a blog where the guy is FOR the dream act and I quote he says we shouldnt punish these students who had the “MISFORTUNE of being born in another country” Sarah I really agree with you ,we’ve got to watch the rhetoric