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Senate hearing on DREAM Act is nice gesture but Latino community needs more

LatinaLista — This morning’s first-ever Senate hearing on the DREAM Act, chaired by Sen. Durbin, seemed, at times, like an exercise in “preaching to the choir.”

The audience was overwhelmingly supportive of the DREAM Act and, in fact, many DREAMers were in attendance. At one point, Sen. Durbin was the lone senator sitting behind the table listening to panelists and questioning them.

DREAMAct turnout.jpgIt was gratifying to see Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano; Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan; Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Dr. Clifford Stanley; DREAM Student, Ola Kaso; and Lt. Colonel (retired) Margaret Stock all speak supportively, authoritatively and enthusiastically about the DREAM Act.

First-ever Senate hearing on Dream Act draws a capacity crowd.
(Source: White House Initiative on Education Excellence for Hispanics)

It was especially gratifying to hear Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies, a usually hostile opponent to any kind of legislation on behalf of undocumented immigrants, get a little flustered when Sen. Durbin asked him if he had a change of heart over the DREAM Act when the senator compared Camarota’s statements from today to more inflammatory ones he had made against the DREAM Act in the past.

Yet, while today’s hearing was nice and Sen. Reid’s reintroduction of the DREAM Act in May was a welcome sign and the recent changes in immigration enforcement announced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton was somewhat appreciated, all these actions combined won’t compel Latino voters to come out in full support, like before, for President Obama’s 2012 campaign — they can’t.

It isn’t because Latinos are being too hard to please or are unappreciative of these current efforts, and even past ones, but it’s because these efforts just don’t go far enough and the stakes are even higher now.

Data is showing that there are an educational and economic crises facing this nation that if not addressed leaves Latino youth, and the overall community, very vulnerable in a fragile present and uncertain future.

At the rate these crises are speeding along, the chances that the Latino community will be a majority underclass marked by low education, unsophisticated job skills, having a segment in the shadows and politically and socially discriminated against by the minority in power, are very real outcomes and not just some plot for a science fiction thriller.

When such disparities exist, it doesn’t bode well for the disenfranchised group nor the country as a whole. History has already shown us that lesson.

For that reason, the Latino community and those who advocate on the behalf of undocumented immigrants and the DREAM Act students, can’t be satisfied with “acts” of support — it’s time to understand how high the stakes are in the (near) future for the Latino community, and the nation, if the Latino community isn’t made “whole” — and soon.


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