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Romney the DREAM Killer - By Hector Luis Alamo, Jr.
Photo: Mitt Romney
Former Massachusetts governor and current GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney has vowed to veto the DREAM Act if he’s elected president.
“The question is, if I were elected and Congress were to pass the DREAM Act, would I veto it, and the answer is yes,” Romney told a group of voters in Le Mars, Iowa, during a campaign stop on Saturday. “For those that come here illegally, the idea of giving them in-state tuition credits or other special benefits, I find to be contrary to the idea of a nation of laws.”
Soon thereafter, the Internet flooded with condemnations from Latino and immigrant advocates. One such person, Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, said, “If he becomes the Republican nominee, Romney will find it virtually impossible to reach the 40 percent threshold among Latino voters that Republican candidates need to win the White House.” Sharry shares his position with plenty of others, especially Latinos, for whom Romney has made himself persona non grata.
That Romney would be callous enough to veto the DREAM Act – given that, at the moment, getting any version of the DREAM Act passed an increasing entrenched Congress seems a herculean task – proves that Latinos cannot and should not trust him in the White House. That Romney deems the very idea of the DREAM Act as “contrary to the idea of a nation of laws” demonstrates his weak grasp of the immigration crisis in this country.
Being in a country, whether by entering illegally or remaining illegally, is, without question, against the law. But this premise leads to an improper line of reasoning whenever debate erupts over immigration: since undocumented immigrants have broken American laws, the American people should not provide aid and comfort to such criminals. This kind of thinking is better suited for bandits evading local law enforcement officers or foreign terrorist evading federal agents, but bandits and terrorists shouldn’t be lumped together with immigrants looking to contribute to this, a nation of immigrants, while bettering their own lives.
Yet, immigrants are lumped with bandits and terrorists, because what some Americans fail to realize is that the law and justice don’t always go hand in hand the way they should. Justice is a virtue, enshrined by the founding documents and echoed by great leaders through the centuries, which defines what is fair and good. Laws are merely rules, passed by legislators, either by general consent of all the people or not, which outline what a person can and cannot do. Lawmakers try to create laws that work within the parameters of justice, but oftentimes they fail to do so (either inadvertently or purposely): slavery, Jim Crow, Prohibition, Mexican Repatriation, Japanese internment, poll taxes, and so on.
Truth be told, instead of meaning “fair and good,” the term justice once more closely translated to “the natural order of things” or “part of God’s plan.” In this sense, apples growing from apple trees and acorns growing from oaks was seen as justice at work, just as whites owning Black slaves and civilized America wresting the continent from heathen natives was also seen as just by many people. In the Plessy v. Ferguson case of 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled racial segregation just, although little more than 50 years later, the Court deemed it unjust.
It may be that some Americans today deem the nation’s immigration laws and mass deportations as just; they may also think that Mexicans belong in Mexico, or – Heaven help them – that America is a monocultural, monolingual nation. (If so, they’re living in a Leave It To Beaver rerun.) But while nativists view undocumented immigrants as the unjust agents, immigrant advocates and many Latinos along with them see the immigration system as the source of injustice. There can be no justice, they argue, in a system that rips family members – parents, siblings, grandparents and guardians – away from natural born citizens, or rips undocumented immigrants away from the only country they’ve ever known. There can be no justice in detaining the undocumented and treating them like pimps, thieves and other violent criminals.
Mitt Romney and many like him also fail to understand the kind of individual the DREAM Act targets. We’re not talking about adults actively and knowingly sneaking into the country or staying past their visas. The DREAM Act would do nothing for such a person. Who we’re talking about is the millions of undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country at a young age, schooled here, received their high school diplomas here, and either served their country in the armed forces or enrolled in an institute of higher learning. These immigrants, and only these immigrants, are who the DREAM Act looks to protect: soldiers, students, members of the community.
It seems unconscionable to me how someone could see justice in hunting down and deporting someone who was brought here at a young age. What child understands borders or the difference between one country and another? What child, when strapped into a car seat or led by the hand, asks which borders they’ll be crossing during the trip? I’ve yet to meet a three-, four- or five-year-old who knew the difference between Chicago, Illinois and the United States.
Even so, where a person is born seems beside the point. Are Americans defined by their principles or their paperwork? The United States should be focused on what it’s always excelled at: gathering the best pool of citizens on the planet, no matter where they come from. That’s what made America the leader of the free world in less than two centuries, and it’s what will keep us in what is bound to be a century as turbulent as the last.
What Romney and the millions of Americans who oppose the DREAM Act must understand is that the immigration system as it stands today is unjust and to preserve it as is would be the only injustice. I say it again: any person who opposes the DREAM Act or otherwise supports the detention and deportation of DREAMers is on the wrong side of justice. The millions of undocumented immigrants whom the DREAM Act would benefit – mothers, fathers, students, soldiers – have the right to live, work and raise their families here, because no injustice is committed when violating unjust laws. As Dr. King wrote in 1963:
“One may well ask: ‘How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?’ The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.’”
The undocumented person brought here as a child, raised here, educated here, who served their country or attained higher education, is no criminal. This country is theirs just the same, by right and through sacrifice. To give them anything less is criminal.