The US Senate is broken, and the health care debate is only the most current symptom of the problem. An earlier sign of the Senate's inability to confront difficult decisions was during the 2007 immigration debate. During that the debate the American people, when polled, continually affirmed they wanted reform that included a pathway to legalization for undocumented immigrants. Yet the Senate, deluged by phone calls generated by anti-immigrant radio hosts and known hate groups, buckled; no solution was reached.
While the adults charged with the responsibility to govern our country fell for the parlor tricks of radio entertainers, a new generation of immigrants without documentation came of age. There are well over 1 million children in this country without documentation. These young undocumented adults hold great promise for our country's future, and yet even at this difficult time in our country, when potential should be at a premium, the adults in charge have discarded these students' gifts out of fear and expediency.
While our political system reacted with cowardice when faced with the centuries old anti-immigrant rhetoric, these young adults demonstrated bravery, and their dreams proved persistent. In fact, the stubbornness of the dreams of these high school graduates proves that they are firmly American.
The US Supreme Court ruled long ago that we could not punish children for the crimes of their parents. Subsequently a separate Supreme Court realized and ruled that denying public school to undocumented children was in fact a violation of the Constitution's equal protection clause. We find ourselves at the juncture in the road that those decisions have brought us to. Due to a lack of moral clarity or even legislative logic, our political system has abandoned these same children as they move to college age -- as if they have no country at all.
On March 15, I will serve as co-host for a special screening of the documentary movie Papers at the University of Colorado. Papers follows a number of our nation's top high school graduates as they deal with the reality of being undocumented and discarded by a political system that seems to respond only when the rich and powerful need welfare, compassion, and government action.
The documentary, by Anne Galisky, is an eye opening experience. Those who see it are struck by who these young people are. They are your neighbors, they are your high school sports heroes, they are diverse, they are the kids down the block - the boy and girl next door. They text, they stay out late sometimes, they date, they fall in love, their hearts break and they persist. They are Americans.
The majority of the American people have seen past the fear mongering that has taken place over the last decade on the immigration issue. The US Senate and the US house should do the same. Since the last serious immigration debate, two new graduating classes of undocumented students have hit the artificial scholastic wall that is mortared by fear, ignorance and hate. The young have proven themselves mature and courageous as they push at that wall. It is time for the U.S. Senate and House to demonstrate that their maturity and courage is equal to that of these dreamers and tear that wall down.
MORE INFO: The film is being premiered on the CU Boulder Campus on March 15th at 7:00 PM courtesy of the University of Colorado , AM 760 and the Law Firm of Mike Turner and Scott Henderson. The campus groups involved from the University of Colorado are: SOURCE (Student Outreach Retention Center for Equity), The Latino Law Student Association and the Departments of Ethnic Studies, Sociology and Geography.
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