The United States of America is the result of an audacious dream.
At a time when kings and queens were the norm a group of radicals dreamed of a place where the will of the people would govern; a radical and dangerous concept at the time. And ever since, dreaming has defined our political and social fabric—“the American Dream,” “I Have a Dream,” “the Dream Shall Never Die,” “Dreams of My Fathers.”
So it is fitting that a simple law which offers a pathway to citizenship to thousands of innocent and promising undocumented children and young adults is called the “Dream Act.” The law hardly brings about the sweeping changes needed to fix the broken immigration system. But it represents a bold first step toward a desperately needed comprehensive overhaul of the dysfunctional law that stymies American business and separates families across oceans. When you think about it, the Dream Act is a no-brainer—a win-win for everyone. The deserving kids get a chance at the American Dream and, in exchange, America gets their demonstrated commitment to its vitality and future.
That’s why it was so frustrating yesterday to watch the Senate Republicans obstruct yet another legislative initiative; this time in the context of a procedural vote on a motion to proceed to consideration of the fiscal 2011 defense authorization bill (S. 3454). That means the Senate won’t be able to consider the Dream Act as an amendment to the bill along with other issues like the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding gays in the military. At the risk of sounding too partisan, it just seems like in their zeal to thwart President Obama and the Democrats the Republicans in Congress will obstruct anything they do, even if it helps the country.
So the promising youth that will benefit from the Dream Act have to wait a little longer. And so will America, which will reap tremendous rewards from their full participation in American society. Even the Defense Department understands the value these young people bring to the U.S. and strongly supports passage of the Dream Act as one of its official goals for helping to maintain “a mission-ready, all-volunteer force.” And educators and others who also support the act recognize how much better it is to encourage the aspirations of young people, not to consign them to lives of under-the-table jobs and unmet potential.
The Dream Act targets for future citizenship exactly the kind of people America should be embracing: young soldiers, scholars, strivers, future leaders.
Make no mistake, the nasty obstructionism that plagues Congress is more than just, as President Obama calls it, “the silly season of politics.” It is a fight for the soul of America. It is about our essence as individuals, as a people, as a culture, and as a nation. It is about where we have been and where we are going. What kind of a country do we want to be? Do we want to be a welcoming nation that opens its arms to people from all over the world, and from all walks of life? Or do we want to turn our backs on those in need and restrict, out of ignorance and xenophobia, critical opportunities for engineers, entrepreneurs, researchers, scientists, and, of course, promising children?
I know which nation I want. And I will continue to dream. So, when the opportunity arrives, and Congress is ready to work, I will be the first in the line to call the Hill and urge them to support the Dream Act. We won’t let this Dream fade away and we can all fight together to prove that dreams can come true.