DREAMers, beyond the politics

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The future of young immigrants in our communities is too important to be a political chewtoy.

It's time to move beyond the "throw 'em all out" cowboy mentality and get realistic.

No matter what presidential candidates tell you, this country is not going to hunt down and deport 12 million people.

The issue came to a head in an exchange Wednesday night between presidential candidate Ted Cruz and a Storm Lake woman "DREAMer" - one of those young adults brought to the country as a child, currently allowed to stay by the President's DACA executive action but with no opportunity to earn citizenship.

We agree with Cruz, a presidential decree wasn't the way to go. Administrations change, such policy is as flimsy as tissue paper. A gridlocked Congress should have acted instead, but has failed miserably to resolve the "DREAM Act" proposal for a decade now. That left hundreds of thousands of teenagers and young adults growing up living in fear, and their future remains in limbo.

Will a sudden policy change under the next administration throw them out of the country, or prevent them from being able to pursue an education, get a driver's license, or receive medical care?

Imagine this foolishness - you're going to take a 20-year-old college student, brought here as a toddler or at a young age, raised and educated as entirely American as you or I all their lives, and drop them on a street corner in Tijuana and call that justice? Come on.

We know several of these people, including some who have been valedictorians or class leaders at our local high school. Some I believe serve in our military right now. They've explained how much they love their country - and this is their country, the only one they know. Some don't speak Spanish and know little of the culture of a country their parents 10 or 20 years ago.

What the heck would I do, if dumped in the middle of my family wellspring near Oslo, Norway? It's not much different for someone from Mexico, or Cuba, or anywhere else, who grew up here. Americanism has never been an ethnicity, color or language.

They are not citizens, true; but they are Americans, in every way that matters.

More importantly, why in the world would we want to get rid of them?

Without young newcomers, we are a graying, stagnant society, short the bodies we need to fill classrooms in schools and colleges, or the people we will need to fill future jobs and careers in many fields.

So, we're going to blindly throw out bright, vibrant young people? Students, artists, athletes, entrepreneurs? People who will start businesses and raise families? And we are somehow going to call this progress?

Without newcomers, Storm Lake would be like the rest of rural Iowa, dying a slow, stubborn death. In Storm Lake public schools, around 55 percent of all students are hispanic, and if you think they are all documented, let me put the Brooklyn Bridge up on eBay for you. Do we want schools emptied, educations ruined, families split? Is that what we've come to?

We have to open our eyes here, and use our heads. We are so damn consumed in the fever to pit two parties in a battle to the death at any cost, that we as a people have begun to lose our ability to reason for ourselves. If all of our thoughts and opinions are dictated by our party affiliation or our candidate of choice, goodness help us.

The DREAMers don't only need America, America needs them. It's not soft on crime, or charity, to create a path to citizenship for these people, it's prudent.

The young lady who spoke out at the campaign event is courageous, I think, for doing so in such a public way.

Hard-liners would put this woman in cuffs on a bus to somewhere in Mexico. We'd be out an exceptional person who has taught, volunteered and played important roles in our local health care, education and disability facilities. Someone who has been a valuable addition to our community for ten solid years. What would we be doing to her, and to ourselves?

We're not a mean-spirited society. We're going to see the light eventually. Not only should we be allowing the best and brightest to stay, we should be searching the world for more of them, just as we recruited the best young scientists, even from enemy countries, at the end of World War II. Our country lives, and thrives off young exceptionalism. We need it like the blood in our veins.

If Congress cannot forge a workable, bipartisan policy on an issue as important to our national future as this, maybe they should be deported, out of Washington.

My purpose here is not to criticize Senator Cruz, who is by all accounts an honorable man and an obviously viable candidate, who has many fine ideas. It takes some gumption to go off script and take open questions on the campaign trail, and answer them honestly. You run the risk of being blindsided in front of cameras. We respect the candidates willing to think on their feet.

I would love to hear Mr. Cruz, and Congressman King, stand up and say that they have realized the value of these young people, and see them lead both parties to create a wise and fair program. That would take a lot of courage, but change tends to.

If candidates were in Storm Lake for long, they would get to know the children and young adults of the DREAMer age as we have, as people rather than statistics, and realize they committed no crime.

On the other side of the coin, you cannot have a country with no laws and regulation. Democrats need to realize the need for a strong border and workplace verification systems. Not everyone deserves citizenship - violence, drugs, illegal weapons, stealing, abusing charity resources, should get a person deported, and our country needs to build relationships with others to ensure they stay deported. We're not a haven for the world's criminals.

We've got a start. Every candidate who has been in our area, both parties, agree that comprehensive immigration policy reform is ultimately necessary. If we can agree on that much, maybe we can build on this. An improved system of work and study visas; a pathway for faster, more affordable legal immigration and citizenship so worthy people don't have to be smuggled; a respectable border and better communications with other countries on international movement, can go a long way.