I Beg to Differ
(Published in the Sunday Morning News of Oakland, CA on November 21, 2010)
by Akilah A. Jeffery
Invest in the Dream
'Give me your energetic, your strong and your innovative.' These are not the words etched at the base of the Statute of Liberty. Rather, the enduring symbol of acceptance of immigrants welcomes the tired, sick and poor. Yet the reality our country now faces is the opportunity to welcome a different kind of immigrant.
The U.S. is home to a generation of healthy, intelligent and patriotic young people full of great ideas, ambition and ingenuity. They are the energetic, the strong and the innovative. All they need is the same chance given to generations of European immigrants before them.
Many of today's young immigrants had no choice in coming to the United States. They were infants or toddlers when their parents brought them across the Mexican border into the United States. They grew up reciting English poems about Paul Revere. They have no idea how to survive in the lands of their births. They may appear foreign on paper but they are socially, culturally and linguistically American. For many of them, America is the only country they know.
The Dream Act is a piece of federal legislation that would give the promising teens among them the opportunity to give back what America has given to them. The Dream Act would reward young immigrants who prove their loyalty to the U.S. by voluntarily defending her as members of the U.S. military with a pathway to citizenship.
The Dream Act would also give young immigrants with talented minds the opportunity to apply their academic knowledge and college degrees to the needs of America's communities rather than be forced to return to their countries of origin, taking their brilliance and expertise with them. Instead of expelling a gifted college student who spent his or her life growing up in America with dreams of being a doctor or a teacher in their American hometown, the Dream Act would also grant those hard working students a pathway to citizenship.
The Dream Act is designed to hold on to the best and brightest young people for the benefit of the nation. It would enable young achievers to remain in the U.S. and contribute to their communities in a positive manner. It allows business students the opportunity to stay in the U.S. after graduation to create jobs in depressed areas. It blesses an American soldier in Afghanistan to have the support of another soldier by his side in battle. It keeps the education and expertise a talented immigrant gained from a university education right here in America.
The Dream Act just makes sense. It has the power to make the American military stronger, filling its ranks with strong men and women who are eager to serve. It also bolsters the economy but stopping the brain drain of talented engineers, scientists, teachers and business people who would otherwise be forced to take their knowledge elsewhere and redirects their expertise to communities all across America. Hopefully Congress will have the foresight to enact such worthy legislation.