This morning my sister sent me this, an article in the Washington Post about students who are in the country illegally and who are publicly declaring that fact to raise awareness for the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act, according to the National Immigration Law Center, would:
Permit certain immigrant students who have grown up in the U.S. to apply for temporary legal status and to eventually obtain permanent status and become eligible for U.S. citizenship if they go to college or serve in the U.S. military; and eliminate a federal provision that penalizes states that provide in-state tuition without regard to immigration status.
What the students are doing is kind of terrifying—they’re putting themselves at risk of getting deported. But many students who were interviewed in the article said that they are tired of living in fear of deportation, and feel that it is important for them to speak out for the sake of the bill. And many people are saying that drawing so much attention to themselves is actually a form of protection against deportation, as it is less likely that they will be shipped off under the watchful eye of the media.
Now, this may not seem to be a particularly feminist or Jewish issue. Quite frankly, I don’t really think it is a feminist issue. But for me, it is easy to see why it is a Jewish issue; the history of Jews in America is one based around immigrants who were allowed to come to this country and work their way up. They took jobs that other people didn’t want or couldn’t do, got an education, and slowly flourished. The story of the Jew in America is the story of the immigrant (of all races and ethnicities) in America, and therefore, by definition, the story of America. In order for America to continue to be the country that it has always been, a country built on the strength and perseverance of immigrants, this country needs to allow these students, people who are trying to and can become useful citizens by joining the army or getting a degree, to do so.
It’s not just Jews who have come here to change their lives; I recently met someone who immigrated to America from India in 2005 who reminded me of how America still is the land of opportunity. When he told me his story of coming here, he glowed about the way that as soon as he came to America he had opportunities to make money and for social mobility that he never had before. He’s currently getting a degree in Nuclear Engineering, works more jobs than anyone I know, and is one of the most hardworking people I’ve ever met; I consider him a great asset to America. He’s becoming a citizen next year—other people who are not as lucky deserve the chance to do so, and lawmakers owe it to America to make that happen.
Also, a side note: Amen to Shira’s post, below. Here’s an interesting article on the subject.