Waking up the morning after the Senate’s vote to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” felt a lot like the time I woke up to discover that I, in my adult beverage-inspired genius, had chosen to use textbooks to soak up spilled drinks at a party I threw in college. Facing the realities of details I managed to miss during the celebration literally and figuratively put a damper on things… a red, sticky, irreversible damper.
Make no mistake, I fully support the landmark decision to let gays serve openly in the military and thereby enjoy at least a fraction of the rights that they fight to protect for others. However, my heart hurts for the more than 65,000 youth the Senate let down on the same day by blocking the DREAM Act.
Children who had no choice in coming to the United States, but who have paid the same dues alongside peers in surviving and succeeding in the public school system, continue to be denied the chance to be considered “American” in a country that, for many of them, has been the only one they’ve ever really known.
If the legislation had passed, students and soldiers—not criminals—would have been granted a conditional pathway to citizenship, one that was contingent on completion of a college degree or two years of military service within six years of temporary residency (more than we ask of other citizens).
This bill was not about allowing unrestricted immigration, but acknowledging that youth being punished for the dreams and decisions of their parents deserve rights and opportunities to pursue their own. Right now, it’s hard for me to say I’m proud to be an American when, at the end of the day, the truth is that I’m just lucky to be one.
Click on the link below, select “play episode” and fast-forward to minute 46:34:
JUST ONE THING MISSING: The story of a college student in California with good grades, an excellent work ethic, but no possible way to get a legal job. She’s lived in the U.S. since she was little, but her parents are undocumented; and she is, too. As reported by Douglas McGray on the radio program This American Life (“Nice Work if You Can Get It,” Apr. 6, 2007).