Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dreams or Nightmare?

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

Once again the Republican Party defied the Latino community by refusing to consider the DREAM Act. The GOP stalled consideration of the defense spending bill by voting 56 to 43, with two Democrats joining the GOP in effect killing the DREAM Act. Just shy of the 60 votes needed to push the debate forward, the GOP's dirty politics alienated Latino voters and blocked the bill.

The DREAM Act was added as an amendment to the defense spending bill and is part of Department of Defense's effort to maintain a strong "All Volunteer Force." The DOD has included the DREAM Act in its Office of Personnel Readiness FY2010 - 2012 Strategic Plan. "We must be able to recruit, retain, develop and motivate a high-quality, diverse, and properly sized workforce." Republicans claim the DREAM Act has nothing to do with national defense and was a political move by Democrats to energize the Latino vote before the mid-term elections.

Perhaps the real reason the DREAM Act failed is the Senate's failure to reconsider repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell, the right of gay service people to serve openly in the Armed Forces which was also attached to the defense spending bill.

But what troubled me even more than the Republican's motive to kill the bill, is what some Dreamers have expressed since the defeat of the bill. The accusation that we are trying to criminalize their parents for crossing the border without proper documents, is offensive.

The impertinent attacks by some undocumented youth who believe that serving in our Armed Forces is not an admirable or alternative service to our country are troubling.

This debate concerning the DREAM Act has been on the table for several years and rarely have I heard any sustained effort to keep "community service" as an option. Now, we hear from disenchanted Dreamers they had been left out of the debate. Yet because of the strong presence of Dreamers with fasts, sit-ins, and public protests were reasons we came close to passing the bill.

I believe the argument of not wanting to serve in the military is one sure basis of giving opponents reason to oppose this bill. It is the wrong argument to make as thousands of Americans have given their lives for freedom. Furthermore, it is disgraceful to service men and women and their families.

For a Dreamer who literally has no legal right to be in this country to accuse supporters of the DREAM Act of being inconsiderate or unsympathetic to their beliefs because "we do not understand what it means to be an undocumented student" shows lack of integrity and maturity. To criticize supporters of the DREAM Act as being out of touch and indifferent to their concerns is disingenuous.

I hear the questionable allegation that the Democrats are forcing undocumented youth to renounce their loyalty and love for their parents because Democrats are using the argument that parents crossed the border illegally, bringing their young children with them. Excuse me for not understanding, but these are the facts. No one is asking any young adult to turn their back on their parents.

The intention of the DREAM Act is to create opportunities for youth, who parents crossed the border without the proper documentation, to gain a pathway to citizenship, continue with their education in college, or serve in the military for two years, be given an opportunity to get a driver's license, a Social Security number so they can work, and contribute to the success of our country.

If some of the 850,000 undocumented youth find these provisions unacceptable, no one is going to force them to participate in the benefits of the DREAM Act. They can continue to live their lives in the shadows, threatened every single day with the fear of deportation.

I support comprehensive immigration reform and have been a strong proponent of reform working with faith leaders to fight for justice and righteousness. I support the DREAM Act because I feel it provides unprecedented opportunities for youth who are basically "Americans" in every sense of the word, except by the fact they were not born in this country.

When I read that undocumented youth do not want to serve in the Armed Forces because of their belief our government is at war for unjust or immoral reasons, I am convinced that they need to read the history of this country and for example, how it fought against Germany and Japan when they tried to enslave the world with their totalitarian ideology.

I am confused and dismayed that as proponents of the bill, we are called inconsiderate by Dreamers who claim their status is being exploited simply for political reasons. If we are using the wrong tactics, what are the acceptable arguments needed to pass this bill?

Apparently, it comes down to the fact some undocumented youth in our country want to enjoy the benefits of citizenship, but don't agree with the military alternative, and are taking out their frustration on supporters who support the DREAM Act, with the military option.

If the present bill is unacceptable, don't take your dissatisfaction out on your allies and friends who are working to pass the DREAM Act. Work to change it, but don't take out your frustration on supporters trying to make your life better.

Is there unfairness toward undocumented immigrants in our country? Absolutely, and that is why we must continue our fight to overcome injustice. As Dr. Martin Luther King said, "justice too long delayed is justice denied." But in order to overcome this hate and paranoia, we need to work together against a common enemy, not against each other.

This unjustifiable outcry that we are criminalizing the parents of Dreamers or forcing them to serve in the military as young Americans have done in the past is disheartening. The DREAM Act offers options, and provides a very virtuous way to citizenship.

I wonder if we are fighting a losing battle against the racists and extremist Republicans, knowing that from within the DREAM Act movement, I am considered the enemy by some of the very same young adults I am trying to help.

Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H. S. Power and Light Ministries - Latino Faith Initiative. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA - TV Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years as a journalist. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; and in law enforcement as the Manager of Public Safety, responsible for the Denver Police Department, Denver Fire Department, and Denver Sheriff Department for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed to preach in 1972. He serves on the Executive Council for the Hispanic Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

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