Last weekend, I got a chance to sit down with a couple of young activists who are working to try to pass the DREAM Act. This legislation would allow kids who are undocumented, but who have lived here most of their lives to have a path to legal status.
I hope it goes without saying how incredibly cruel and stupid it is that we have kids who have lived in Tennessee almost their whole lives (the kids I met with have been here since they were toddlers), who speak with Tennessee accents, who've gone to our schools and graduated from them, who are in danger of being deported to countries they can't, in many cases, even remember, and all because some of "us" don't believe that they are a part of "us," even if they've been our friends and neighbors almost their whole lives.
Regardless of how you feel about adults coming to this country illegally, I would hope that we are not yet at the point as a nation where we knowingly punish children for the sins of their parents.
So, these kids hope that, with the passage of the DREAM Act, they will have a means to go to college at in-state tuition rates, or join the military, and then become a legal part of this country. (As I said at Tiny Cat Pants
, it's really bitterly funny that we work so hard to make lives miserable and kick out kids who have such a deep love of this country.)
I found my meeting with these kids heartbreaking and so I called my dad to talk about it*and he was all, "Well, they can just join the military. That's what kids in that situation do. They join the military and when they get out, they get to be legal residents."
"No, Dad, that's why they need the DREAM Act," I said.
"Well, that's stupid. I don't think that's right, Betsy. You're good enough to serve our country but not good enough to be a legal part of it? You'd better check on that."
So, I asked around and a lot of folks are under the impression that joining the military is already a way for kids who are stuck in this situation to have a path to legal residency and the hope of citizenship.
I then went straight to a guy who would know, Elias Feghali
at the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC
). And he said that while these kids can indeed join the military, the military is not a path to legal residency. In fact, there really is no path for these kids to take, no way for them to rectify a situation they did nothing to cause.
The DREAM Act is intended to give those kids a couple of ways, one of which a lot of folks think they already have.
*Some folks have requested more footnoting and more of me checking in with men every once in a while to make sure I'm not off track. This footnote and this phone call are a part of my efforts to meet those demands. I'm sorry to report, though, that the person best able to assure you that my dad is a man is my mom, who is a woman. But I will try to get a man to vouch for her if you need her to vouch for my dad so that he can vouch for me having made an effort to find a man to vet my thoughts. Just let me know.