DREAM Act better than nothing, but flawed
Arizona Daily Star
Sept. 26, 2007

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Opinion by Ernesto Portillo Jr. : DREAM Act better than nothing, but flawed

Tucson, Arizona | Published: http://www.azstarnet.com/allheadlines/203051 

The DREAM Act, the latest piecemeal immigration legislation introduced in Congress, would give a chance of citizenship to thousands of undocumented immigrants who graduated from high school and whose parents brought them to this country as youngsters.

It also proves a truth about immigration. But more on that later.

The DREAM Act, which has been introduced several times previously, has strong bipartisan support in Congress and has a chance at passing, said Josh Bernstein of the National Immigration Law Center.

It is a high priority among key Republican and Democratic legislators who are passionate about the legislation, he said.

Opponents are equally passionate. They want to upend the DREAM Act in the same way they did earlier with comprehensive immigration reform. They paint the legislation with today's scarlet letter an "A" for amnesty.

Amnesty it's not.

The DREAM Act should be adorned with the letter "P" for practical, a word opponents don't understand.

About 65,000 undocumented students graduate annually from high school and would be eligible for the DREAM Act, the National Immigration Law Center estimates. Only those who attend either college or serve in the military for at least two years would be eligible.

The number of noncitizens in the military, currently 4 to 5 percent, will not significantly increase under the DREAM Act, said Margaret Stock, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and an associate professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

What will increase is the quality of volunteers because immigrants bring high motivation, language skills and cultural expertise, Stock wrote me.

Interestingly enough, there are some immigrant-rights groups and activists who take exception with the DREAM Act because of its two-year military service provision. They argue it's unfair to lure people into the military and into possible war with the promise of citizenship.

"As an educator, I would love to see more undocumented students in college paying in-state tuition and on a path to legalization," wrote Jorge Mariscal, a professor of Chicano Studies at the University of California San Diego.

"But as a veteran, I am concerned that far too many DREAM students can't afford school and will wind up in the lowest ranks of the military in a time of pre-emptive wars and endless occupations. Death or dismemberment is a high price to pay for acceptance," Mariscal wrote me.

Moreover, critics of the provision, which they consider a "back-door draft," are angry that an earlier community service provision was dropped in favor of the military provision.

The DREAM Act has been diluted to exclude other provisions that could have allowed immigrant youths to earn citizenship and instead will "channel thousands of youth into the U.S. war machine, instead of college," Alexis Mazon, an immigrant rights activist formerly of Tucson, wrote me.

However, the large majority of national and community immigration-rights groups, which have previously pushed hard for comprehensive immigration reform, consider the DREAM Act a move in the right direction. I'm with them on this, but with reservations.

Critics like Mazon and Mariscal have good reason to object to the military provision. It was included to increase its chance of congressional approval.

Last week, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said the DREAM Act would help solve the "recruitment crisis we face today," reported the Wall Street Journal.

That's cynical.

Here's another cynical view.

The military provision shows, yet again, this country needs immigrants to do a job too few citizens are willing to do.

Opinion by

Ernesto

Portillo jr.

● Contact Ernesto Portillo Jr. at eportillo@azstarnet.com or 573-4242. His blog is at www.azstarnet.com/blogs.