THE BLOG
10/23/2007 08:07 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

"Make or Break Day" for the DREAM Act

I couldn't help but be drawn to the subject line of one of the first
emails of the morning: PLEASE HELP US!

I would have probably deleted it without opening it, assuming it was
another one of those overseas money scams, but then I noticed it was
from a listserve that has been very active with fighting the building of
the border wall along Texas and Mexico.

When I read the email, it was a plea to help two sisters who were
enrolled in college -- one had graduated from a nursing program and the
other was in the middle of her own nursing studies.

The plea wasn't for money. It was to give them the opportunity to put
their U.S. college degrees to work.

You see, legally neither sister can work here in this country, even with
U.S. college degrees.

Why? Because they're both undocumented immigrants.

The emailed plea was to make these sisters' dream of helping the sick a
reality by supporting the imminent Senate vote on a bill known as the
Dream Act.

Across the country, debate over the DREAM Act -- providing undocumented
students who were 15-years-old or younger when they arrived with their
parents, a path to citizenship, if they either go on to college or
military service and prove to be of good moral character -- always seems
to get stuck on the point of granting undocumented immigrants in-state
tuition.

It doesn't matter to critics that studies show that in states that
already allow undocumented immigrants college access and the opportunity
to compete for financial aid that the number of undocumented students is
far too small to deprive native-born students of college admission slots
or financial aid.

Critics still complain.

But the real complaint should be of the wasted talent that this country
is allowing itself not to take advantage of and instead (here's the real
kicker!) would rather import from outside the country.

For example, it's estimated that 65,000 undocumented students graduate
from high school in the United States every year. There are no exact
numbers of how many go on to college but we know they do by virtue of
the existence of college student groups such as S.U.R.G.E. (Students
United to Reach Goals in Education) and IDEAS.

These students juggle classes with homework, jobs, community service,
extra-curricular activities and graduate with degrees in hand in the
hopes that somebody will notice they are worthy to work legally in this
country.

So far, no dice.

These students are graduating as bilingual teachers, nurses, engineers,
business administrators -- the list goes on.

Yet, this country would rather slap these young people in the face by
not acknowledging the fact that these students, who may not be
native-born but are "home-grown," have a ready command, in most cases,
of two languages and an intimate knowledge of the history, the
traditions, the culture/pop culture and the issues of this country.

The further insult is that school districts facing a shortage of
bilingual teachers are bypassing our own qualified graduates, albeit
undocumented, to import teachers from Mexico, Spain and other South
American countries to teach in a school system that they are unfamiliar
with and where they should be role models in modeling both English and
Spanish to their bilingual students, inevitably need to either learn
English themselves or are naturally stronger in Spanish.

Hospitals are bypassing qualified nursing school graduates who are
bilingual to recruit nurses from such countries as the Phillipines.
Nurses who must learn U.S. routines and patient care that is unique to
this country.

But because our graduates who are undocumented cannot legally work, they
must stand idly by and watch their rightful jobs go to people who have a
steep learning curve when it comes to knowing the culture and people of
the United States.

Yet, there is one last chance to help these students, and in the process
our own economy, and that is to speak up about the absurdity of this
situation by asking that the Senate pass the DREAM Act.

This evening, I was invited to participate in a conference call with
Senator Durbin, the main sponsor of the current DREAM Act bill going
before the Senate tomorrow afternoon.

He said that many of his colleagues, who are the same critics who have
shouted down the DREAM Act before, have expressed their "displeasure" in
having to vote for this bill again.

Why? Because it may help the children of undocumented immigrants?

As one reader of Latina Lista commented, since when in this country do
we blame the children for the sins of the parents?

If that were the case, then every child of a drunk driver, robber,
rapist, embezzler, etc. would be locked up.

It's not done because our common sense tells us it's not right.

In an example of where common sense has gone out the window: on the
conference call, one of the speakers made it known that in preparation
for tomorrow's Senate vote on the DREAM Act, a group of undocumented
students, college graduates and current students, bravely appeared
before members of Congress to brief them on their lives, their
struggles, and their hopes.

It was an effort to put a human face to the issue. A memo was sent out
to all congressional representatives that the students were doing this.
The memo went to Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo, a vocal opponent
of undocumented immigrants.

His response to the memo was to issue a press release calling for ICE to
come and arrest the students.

It is this kind of senseless attack that has doomed this issue to
forever be unresolved and is putting the lives of innocent children
under undue stress.

Senator Durbin said that if the bill fails to get the 60 votes it needs
tomorrow it is dead until after the next president is elected.

These children are ready to serve this country.

Isn't it time to let common sense prevail?

It can if we call our href="http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm">Senator
and tell him/her it's time -- to see reason.