Monday, May 10, 2010

Show me your papers! Will my diploma suffice?!

Maria sheds tears of the soul, usually when she speaks of all the people who have been there for her along her difficult journey. She makes you cry too when she tells her story. Bright and inspirational, straight A student, ready to go to college to get a degree that she won’t be able to use in this country because her parents brought her over here at two years old. Her younger brother will have the benefits of citizenship because he was born here. But just like him this is the only place that she has ever called home.

Juan is a brilliant young man, academically and artistically. Worldly wise at a young age, breezing through high school, he taught himself five languages and tutored fellow students in various subjects. He's one of those people who can speak softly and still project the power and authority of someone who knows himself. Shunning college he now works as a tattoo artist for cash because he can’t get a social security number. When he breaks down and shares his story (which is rare) the pain is almost unbearable. Yet, he perseveres and is the kind of person that everyone loves to be around. Brought across the border as an infant, he has never known any other place as home.

Due to their undocumented status, these young people live cautiously, in the shadows of society. With spirits so bright and powerful they should stand out like a candle in the dark, yet they walk like stealth Jedi-knights through this culture that is consumed with fear. They are the ones that are at high risk of rejection and exploitation, living with no societal protection. Yet this society seems to fear them. Arizona certainly fears them.

In her blog of April 22 - I Love Us, Juliana shares that when youth act out we see it as an opportunity.
“… we can’t do anything about it until it shows up ..."
She was talking about when youth act out, but what about when an entire state acts out as in the recent immigration bill that sent the state of Arizona further in the direction of fascism. It showed up! So, let’s look at it as an opportunity – at least a wake up call.

Those who are upset about what happened in Arizona can complain about it and then get back to watching American Idol, or we can use it to motivate action. When AZ Governor Brewer signed the bill she gave us a clue about how we can do this. She stated that they had tired of waiting for the Federal government to do something. So, let’s respond by pressuring the government to do something. Of course the something that I would like to start with is probably not what the good Governor had in mind.

Let’s start with the “DREAM Act” that has been floating around congress for years with little political will to push for enactment. The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors act would provide undocumented students who graduate from US high schools the opportunity to earn permanent resident status. This is essentially for young people who were brought into this country at a young age by their parents. If they were able to overcome all the obstacles in front of them, graduate high school, go on to college and demonstrate “good moral character” (no trouble with the law) they may qualify. This should be an easy one as we are only talking about people who stand a great chance of significantly contributing to society. Further, this is really the only place that they have ever called “home”. So, why shouldn’t they be able to fully participate in this society?

If we can’t get this one through, then what hope do we have for a compassionate larger policy?  For a moment let’s forget about those here illegally. Legal citizens of the United States of America cannot walk free in their own state. Legal citizens of the state of Arizona can be stopped and hassled at any time. What if they forget to bring their “papers” out of the house with them? I wonder if the folks that think the Arizona law is reasonable have any idea of what it’s like to be considered a second-class citizen. In case you think that this policy may not get fully enforced because the governor assured us that there will not be racial profiling, know this: the law provides that government entities can be sued for not aggressively prosecuting this law.

So please, take a stand. Sign petitions. Raise awareness. Let your voice be heard.
"He who passively accepts evil is as much
involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it."
-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tony LoRe
Youth Mentoring Connection/Urban Oasis
Boarding House Mentors

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