Thursday, September 24, 2009

A DREAM for America

Yesterday I was invited to have remarks at a press conference in support of the DREAM (The Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors) Act.

Entitled 'A DREAM for America: Back-to-School DREAM Act Day', it was part of a national effort of over 100 plus initiatives across the country to call on Congress to support this significant and sensible legislation.

The following are my remarks.

We live in a great country. A country so great in fact, that its promise is almost always larger that its practice. But it is a country in which engaged citizens who are willing to project themselves into the public square can move this nation closer to the realization of the greatness of that promise. The DREAM Act is one of those initiatives designed to do just that. I support the DREAM Act, because I believe it to be legislation that speaks to American’s fundamental commitment to justice, fairness and compassion. And because it just makes sense.

The status of children of undocumented aliens, who have been educated in this country, who have shown themselves to only want the opportunity to pursue a future in which the can achieve their potential – potential conceived, in many cases – in the only country they have ever known is entirely within the bounds of reason and compassion.

These young people are not strangers to us. The have entertained us with the exploits on athletic fields; we have enjoyed their music; they have played with our children; they are protecting our country on foreign battlefields and they only ask the opportunity along a pathway to productive citizenship in a land that they love and which they call home.

We are living in tough economic times. We live in times in which we are rightfully concerned about the security of our nation. It is during times such as these that we are tempted to find a people who represent something threatening to our country’s future. There is a tendency to scapegoat easy and vulnerable targets and in the process frustrate the fulfillment of the promise of America’s greatness. The paranoia and xenophobia expressed during times like these makes it easy to talk of some mythical ‘us’ credited as ‘owners’ of the USA. The truth of the matter is, that ‘us’ has never really existed. This country has been built by people who have traveled here because of the promise of a better life; brought here to harvest its natural resources and build its monuments; or drawn here to ensure the continuation of that better life. That is the legacy of our country's continued striving and struggle for supremacy in our world.

We now face the challenge of how and whom we will allow those whom have traveled here, been brought here or drawn here to stay here, as workers or as citizens. The youth who would benefit from the DREAM Act a part of the challenge. They did not cause the problem and we cannot and must not, seek to punish them in an effort to get to their parents. That is a sign of America’s weakness, not its greatness.

While we await the time when our Congress summons the political courage and will to pass substantive, sensible and comprehensive immigration reform legislation, we can give these youth the chance to see what we know exists in this country: the willingness to extend the opportunity to DREAM as we struggle to become as great as our promise.

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