LatinaLista — 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 Senator and tell him/her it’s time — to see reason.