LatinaLista — Harvard sophomore and undocumented student, Eric Balderas, got some welcome news over the weekend — he would no longer face deportation to Mexico.
It seems Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had a change of heart. It could have been because of Sen. Durbin, who lobbied for leniency on behalf of Balderas, or maybe it was the Facebook page set up in his honor that generated over 6,000 friends who voiced their support in a variety of ways — from writing words of encouragement on the FB wall to calling the offices of senators to express their outrage over Balderas’ impending deportation.
Harvard student Eric Balderas in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass. on Friday. Josh Reynolds/Associated Press
Whatever it was, it worked and it signified an underlying truth that exists with each and every student deportation — it doesn’t make sense to deport someone who has lived their formative years in the United States, excelled personally and academically and considers themselves to be American before any other nationality.
A student that fits this criteria is known as a DREAM Act student. Balderas and others like him would benefit from the passage of what is known as the DREAM Act, where someone who was brought to this country as a young person, attended school and lived their lives as every other American youth, with the exception of not having the proper paperwork, would finally be allowed to gain citizenship by either attending college or vocational schooling or enlisting in the military.
Balderas’ case is not the first to galvanize public attention, and it won’t be the last but what happened to him and the outpour of outrage that it generated among the 6,000 who supported him underscores the realization that the immigration debate has reached a critical juncture that is now pitting immigrant advocates and the greater Latino community against congressional Democrats who support Comprehensive Immigration Reform — as long as the DREAM Act is part of that package.
There is a feeling gaining momentum among the greater Latino community and immigrant advocacy groups that while Congress is content to relegate CIR to the backburner until the necessary bipartisanship is reached on the issue, it is unfair for these students to have to wait any longer.
The desired strategy has always been to keep the DREAM Act as a part of (CIR). The belief is that deporting promising students is such an unpalatable proposition for any congressperson to endorse that it is the bargaining chip which improves the chances for passage of the overall CIR bill.
Yet, uncooperative Republicans in Congress and the insistence by Democrats that there be bipartisan support for CIR is making the likelihood of CIR being introduced this legislative season less and less likely.
However, more and more undocumented students are reaching their threshold for frustration and the sense of hopelessness that their future will amount to anything. In their eyes, the best time for them to go to school, learn and earn degrees is passing them by and there’s nothing they can do about it.
Some of these students have tried to do something.
A group of undocumented students walked from Miami to DC to ask the Obama administration to put a moratorium on deporting students. They were recently told by the White House, “No.”
Other students have gone on hunger strikes to force the issue or held rallies.
There is a sense of renewed desperation coming from these young people that was clearly illustrated in a video interview with Balderas (posted on latinalista.net) before he knew he had been granted a deferment and an anonymous postcard sent by an undocumented student.
Both students expressed the desire to commit suicide.
People were so touched by the feeling of desperation expressed by the young person who sent in the postcard — he said was going to jump from the Golden Gate Bridge this summer because of his undocumented status and the feeling of not being wanted anywhere — that complete strangers set up a Facebook page and titled it “please don’t jump.”
In a matter of only two weeks, the page has registered over 67,000 members and it keeps growing that another page had to be created to handle the traffic.
This outpour of support for both these undocumented students, and ones in the past who have had their cases brought to the public’s attention, clearly show that the average citizen is not in favor of deporting students who had no fault in finding themselves growing up in the United States and who have led exemplary lives otherwise.
It’s no longer fair to use this group as a bargaining chip to get CIR passed in Congress. The other elements of any CIR bill should be strong and deserving enough to stand on their own merits.
It’s time to bring the DREAM Act to the floor of Congress and pass it before another school year begins and more hopes are bashed and time is lost just for the sake of making the job of passing CIR easier.