The Death of a DREAM

Everyone can breathe a sigh of relief. America will not be destroyed. The undocumented children living in the United States will stay in the shadows and margins of society where they belong. Sure, we’ll be forced to give them a high school education – heck, we give anyone a high school education whether they deserve it by birth-right or not – but they won’t go using it to get a college education or a tax-paying job.

As I predicted – and I need not have been much of a prophet to do it – the DREAM Act failed to get enough votes in the Senate to move the bill forward. Only three Republicans dared to support it – lame duck Bob Bennett of Utah, undefeatable Dick Lugar of Indiana, and the write-in re-elected Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Even former sponsors Orin Hatch and John McCain felt too much heat from the fear-mongerers to continue their support.

The opponents of a productive future for undocumented children demanded all sorts of concessions in the bill to which sponsors acquiesced, including attaching hefty fees for those wanting to apply for conditional residency under the Act, narrowing the eligible age group, making sure the relatives of those using the Act could never gain residency though sponsorship like those of other legal residents, and extending the period of conditional residency from six to ten years before someone under the act could apply (again with hefty fees, lots of complicated paperwork, and up to a year-long wait) for permanent residency (which would then have to be followed by another five years before being eligible to pay more fees, file more paperwork, and wait months for citizenship).  Yet despite having all the demands met to water down the bill, those who made the demands still refused to vote to let the bill be considered.

I was particularly disappointed by the excuses given by the Senators from my home state of Texas. John Cornyn said, “I am sympathetic to the plight of children who have no moral culpability for being in this country illegally and I support the intent of the bill today, but not this legislation and not this way.” Unfortunately, he didn’t say which legislation and which way would allow him to vote with his sympathies.

Kay Bailey Hutchinson opted for a outright lie rather than Cornyn’s ambiguous drivel. She said, “I could not support the DREAM Act legislation brought before the Senate today because it expanded the scope of the bill beyond the intended individuals who were brought here as children and were educated in the United States.” Not only is that made up out of whole cloth, but the real reason Hutchinson could not support the bill was because she had been threatened by conservatives. After all, when a much broader bill was before the Senate in 2007 she said,

“This is such an important piece of legislation, and I do think this is isolated from the entire immigration issue because there … are young people who have been brought to this country as minors, not of their own doing, who have gone to American high schools, graduated, and who want to go to American colleges. They are in a limbo situation. I believe we should deal with this issue. We should do it in a way that helps assimilate these young people with a college education into our country. They have lived here most of their lives. If we sent them home, they wouldn’t know what home is. There is a compassionate reason for us to try to work this out.”

In the meantime, she alienated the furthest right-wing of the GOP in running against Rick Perry and can’t afford to lose their support in 2012. Somebody has to pay the price and it is certainly easiest to put it on those who have no voice and if her supporters have their way, will never have a voice.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Proverbs 31:8-9

4 Responses to “The Death of a DREAM”

  1. Carl Says:

    My question is not intended to reflect a proponent or opponent position. It just popped into my head.

    What rights do the destitute, poor, and needy have? Especially in this context.

  2. sol Says:

    They must have some, if Proverbs is to be taken as authoritative.

    I think this has to be looked at in two different ways. First, they have rights as to their condition of being poor and needy. The gleaning laws are an example of this. The Torah demands that they be treated in a particular way and property owners are required to make certain provisions for them.

    Second, they have rights as members of the community. Again, the Torah says they have to be treated the same under the law whether they are citizens or aliens. Those who are in a disadvantaged position often have difficulty in getting justice and an equal hearing. Lemuel in Proverbs 31 is saying something that we hear repeatedly from the Prophets.

  3. Carl Says:

    Were the gleaning laws civil laws? Did the poor and needy have to prove they were poor and needy to glean the corners of someone else’s field? Was “poor and needy” a recognized protected class?

    Does anyone have the “right” to become a citizen of any country they choose?

    If the stranger among you is to be treated the same under the law, why the need for the distinction?

  4. sol Says:

    Yes, the gleaning laws were civil laws. I haven’t seen any contradiction of this from any scholar. They are quintessential civil laws.

    There is no specific provision that the poor and needy would have to prove their economic condition. It would be reasonable to assume that in a small agrarian community most residents would be known and their neighbours familiar with their economic condition.

    They were a protected class inasmuch as there is specific provision made for them in the Law. They are also a protected class in that the Lord specifically protects them.

    Under the model of the Torah, there does not seem to be any restriction on become a member of the covenant community – the closest thing to the modern idea of citizenship – other than a willingness to received this sign of the covenant, i.e., to be circumcised. There does not appear to be any specific right of existing members of the covenant community to exclude those willing to be received.

    To put it in a modern nation-state context (which only came into existence about 3000 years after the promulgation of the Torah), I don’t see any biblical reason that a person should not have the right to become a citizen of a country if they have established their domicile there and agree to abide by the laws of that country. However, I do see a biblical reason that such a country should not include amongst its laws such provision that place restrictions on who can establish domicile, other than for the physical protection (not the economic protection) of its current domiciliaries.

    While a stranger is treated the same under the law (which is generally the principle applied in the US) the distinction between the citizen and non-citizen is principally one of participation in civic life – voting and holding office.

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