DREAM Act Vote
The DREAM Act, short for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, is expected to come up for a vote in the Senate on December 18. The measure already passed the House. In taking up this measure the White House and Democrats are once again attempting to hold undocumented youth hostage to government plans to use them as cannon fodder in U.S. wars of aggression. The Pentagon anticipates that passage will provide a yearly pool of 50-60,000 new youth for recruitment.
In an earlier effort, the bill was attached to a Pentagon funding bill, openly demanding that undocumented youth and those supporting them vote in favor of war funding. Now it is being presented as a stand-alone bill, with the White House and Democrats emphasizing its pro-military character. The Pentagon emphasized that the DREAM Act will expand “the market of high-quality patriotic youth, to the advantage of military recruitment and readiness.” The White House said passage would “give students who grew up in the United States a chance to contribute to our country’s well-being by serving in the U.S. Armed Forces,” or pursuing higher education. In some areas various pro-government forces organized rallies at the offices of military recruiters, calling for passage of the DREAM Act so immigrant youth could serve. Thus the drive of the youth and immigrant rights movement demanding Legalization for All Now! is to be diverted into the pro-war ditch of the Pentagon.
The DREAM Act does not address the demands of the youth and immigrant rights movement which recognize that No Human Being Is Illegal! To meet the rights of immigrant youth the government needs to be passing bills that guarantee the right to education for all and provide documentation for all. It is the rights of youth that must be addressed and advancing this fight is the path to securing education and documentation for all. Instead Obama and the Democrats are manuevering to secure a win-win situation for themselves, and a losing one for the youth. If the DREAM Act passes, Democrats will take the credit. If it fails, they can blame Republicans. And either way, their efforts to force the youth and those standing with them to support military recruitment will have been accomplished.
In addition, a main feature of the White House promotion of the DREAM Act is the demand for loyalty to the U.S. Many immigrants, especially the youth, are rejecting the values of the rich supporting imperialist war, exploitation and inequality. The immigrant rights movement, with its mass actions on May Day opposing war and defending worker and immigrant rights is playing a vital role in providing a different vision for the future — one where the rights of all are defended and where there are fraternal relations of mutual benefit with the peoples of the world.
The government’s promotion of the DREAM Act and the requirements themselves, are serving to impose the vision of the rich. As Attorney General Holder put it, passage of the DREAM Act will “establish a new generation of young people grounded in our nation’s finest traditions and its founding principles.” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said: “Passing the DREAM Act will unleash the full potential of young people who live out values that all Americans cherish – a strong work ethic; service to others; and a deep loyalty to our country.”
This government demand for “deep loyalty” is being extended broadly and enforced with threats and repression of various kinds, like the massive raids and deportations against immigrants. Federal workers are also being targeted now for reading the Wikileaks releases and threatened with firing and jail if they refuse to be loyal to government dictate as to the public material they can and cannot read. Anti-war and pro-Palestinian activists are being branded as “supporters of terrorism,” and also told to submit and be loyal, or face jail. President Obama has emphasized, “Being an American is not a matter of blood or birth. It is a matter of faith. It is a matter of fidelity to the shared values that we all hold so dear.”
With all the promotion and mobilizing for the DREAM Act, the government is attempting to force the youth to abandon their values and anti-war stand for those of the government. It is an effort to split the youth from the workers, their parents, or to force all to accept the demand to serve in the military. It is a rotten manipulation of the just demands for the right to education and documentation for all that must be rejected. Loyalty to the rich and their wars brings the death, destruction, exploitation and inequality we are living today. Let us together instead step up the fight for our own vision, for our own anti-war, pro-people agenda.
Papers for All Undocumented Youth!
On Wednesday, November 10, just one week after the Midterm elections, Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) came out in support of the DREAM Act.
Along with Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), Pelosi has promised to push for its passage during the lame duck session. Both legislators are keenly aware of their party’s dubious standing without Latino support. Certainly, it was the Latino vote that helped Reid maintain his congressional seat. Likewise, as Pelosi seeks to become House Minority Leader, her announcement to push for a vote on the proposed legislation is meant to rally support from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and progressives.
But what are they offering us?
In 2008 Barack Obama won the presidency in part by securing the Latino vote on the promise of comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) during his first year in office. Yet almost two years later more than 11 million undocumented immigrants continue to wait for a path to legalization. Worse yet, they wait in fear as the number of raids and deportations have skyrocketed under the Obama administration, a record 400,000 deported this past year alone.
The intensification and institutionalization of repressive measures like Secure Communities, 287(g), E-Verify, and the militarization of the border have all created an atmosphere of terror in immigrant communities.
Obama’s delayed promise of immigration reform also allowed for Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s strike, enacting SB 1070, which represents a widespread attack on the immigrant community not only in Arizona but throughout the country.
Democratic leaders including President Obama have declared CIR dead. Instead they offer piecemeal legislation like AgJOBS and the DREAM Act.
The numbers do not add up
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact number of undocumented youth living in the United States but estimates are in the millions. According to studies only around 2.1 million would potentially be eligible to apply for legal status under the DREAM Act.
However, the Migration Policy Institute reports that a merely 825,000 or 38 percent of these 2.1 million would meet all the requirements for legal permanent residency (LPR). This is a tiny minority who would actually benefit from the DREAM Act, leaving the overwhelming majority with no way to legalize their status and vulnerable to deportation.
Furthermore, one of the requirements for gaining LPR is attending college or university for at least two years; an unlikely proposition taking into account the costs of higher education and the discrimination inherent in our national educational system.
Nationally, the cost of attending college has increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007 (National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education). In California, tuition fees at the University of California (UC) campuses s and California State Universities (CSU) continue to increase from 32 percent last year to 15 percent this year and a scheduled 8 percent and 10 percent increase next year for UC’s and CSU’s respectively.
The community colleges are no different. Last year they saw a fee increase of 54 percent and course offerings shrink. Along with that grant and scholarship offerings are also shrinking. And contrary to popular belief “students from lower-income families, on average, get smaller grants from the colleges they attend than students from more affluent families” (National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education). Likewise, DREAM Act students would not be eligible for federal financial aid — only loans and work study.
As well, the DREAM Act gives states the prerogative to decide if these students qualify for in-state tuition (repealing Section 505 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996).
Moreover, the barriers to socio-economic progress are stacked such that racial and ethnic minorities have a slim chance of success in this country. For example, although Latino, African American, and Native Americans accounted for 29 percent of high school graduates, they made up only 13 percent of incoming freshmen at the UC’s in 2007.
And that number has decreased in recent years. The national high school forced-out rate among Latinos is around 40 percent. In California the rate is 36 percent. In addition, a significant percent of the youth coming to the United States without papers arrive with very little schooling and come to work to contribute to the family income.
These undocumented youth would not even qualify for conditional LPR status.
Guns for papers
The other option the DREAM Act offers in order to gain LPR status is two years of military service. Given the new higher education framework, the military option becomes the de-facto choice to gain LPR status for most undocumented youth.
Those non-citizens already fighting overseas have gained very little as permanent residency is not guaranteed and posthumous citizenship brings no benefits to families of the deceased. Besides, the threat of deportation even for those in uniform is still a possibility.
With the continued occupations in the Middle East and elsewhere, as well as the increased militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, it is very likely that those joining the military under the DREAM Act will see combat. And although the DREAM Act asks for only two years of military service, we must be aware that there is no such thing as a two-year military contract. The National Call to Service Plan passed in 2003 requires that all enlistments be a minimum of eight years.
For a DREAM Act with no military strings attached!
Undocumented youth are tired of the vast inequities and limited opportunities afforded them because of their citizenship status. We fight for the right to education for all, the right to have a job that helps our families get out of poverty, the right to live without fear of incarceration and deportation, the right to keep families together. We denounce the Democrats for their political maneuvering offering empty promises in exchange for our vote.
We should not be asked to assist in the continued occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, or in any new militaristic adventures in Latin America, Iran, or elsewhere in order to obtain papers for our immigrant brothers and sisters. Nor should we have to subjugate our Peoples in their native lands or on the border.
We in the immigrant community are not discouraged by the lack of political will in Washington. We will continue to fight for a new and just immigration policy based on human and workers’ rights. More than ever, it is necessary to (re)build an independent mass movement for legalization. It will take mobilizations and strikes like those that took place in the spring of 2006 to force the ruling elite to grant our just demands. […]
Students, parents, community activists and their organizations are mobilizing on December 3 in front of the Federal Building in San Francisco to demand Papers for ALL! Join the anti-military, pro-legalization contingent calling for a DREAM Act with No Military Strings Attached! And join us in San Francisco or organize a solidarity action in your community.
Government Statements in Support of DREAM Act
The DREAM Act, short for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, recently passed the House of Representatives and is expected to come up for a vote in the Senate on December 18. The DREAM Act requires all undocumented youth under 35 to register with the government and provide biometric identifiers, such as fingerprints or eye-scans. It provides the possibility of citizenship for youth who meet its requirements. These include graduating high school and completing at least two years of college or two years in the military within a six-year period. It also requires passing an FBI background check for “good moral character.” Anyone with more than two misdemeanor drug convictions or any felony conviction is automatically disqualified. The individual involved must have been in the country before they turned 16 and lived here for five years. Given these restrictions, it is estimated that only about 35 percent of the youth who will be forced to register will actually qualify — and even then there are no guarantees of permanent status or citizenship. All those who register face the possibility of deportation.
President Barack Obama and the Democrats are currently trying to secure passage of the DREAM Act. Statements from the government make clear that they are concerned with securing more troops. They are also using the DREAM Act to promote the notion that the American Dream, long dead for most, is alive and well.
President Barack Obama has repeatedly called for passage of the DREAM Act and since the November elections has mobilized to secure its passage. A December White House Update said the White House is doing “all we can, with everyone from the President to Cabinet and Senior officials working to highlight how important the DREAM Act is to our economy, our security and our nation.” A fact sheet promoting the DREAM Act was produced and 50 editorials from the monopoly media supporting it were promoted.
The White House update puts first the fact that the DREAM Act would “give students who grew up in the United States a chance to contribute to our country’s well-being by serving in the U.S. Armed Forces,” or pursuing higher education. It states that it will allow “only the best and brightest young people to earn their legal status after a rigorous and lengthy process.” The emphasis on the “best and brightest” addresses in part a current concern of the rich that the U.S. is not producing enough engineers and scientists. It is estimated that the DREAM Act could add 250,000 scientists and engineers.
Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said, “These are kids that can be our future scientists, our doctors, our military leaders and our educators. Some of them are our future entrepreneurs who will build the next Google or Intel that will generate hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs for our country.” Emphasizing the content of loyalty to the U.S., Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said: “Passing the DREAM Act will unleash the full potential of young people who live out values that all Americans cherish – a strong work ethic; service to others; and a deep loyalty to our country. It will also strengthen our military, bolster our global economic competitiveness and increase our educational standing in the world.”
The Pentagon helped to craft the DREAM Act and has long promoted its passage. It has included the pool of potential recruits anticipated from its passage in its strategic planning for next year. Clifford Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said the pool of people eligible to serve in the military would grow by 50,000 to 60,000 if Congress approves the DREAM Act. “We have to bring in 200,000 to 300,000 people a year, so this really would make a difference.” He said, “Throughout past and current conflicts, those who are not yet citizens have answered the call to defend their adopted nation…Allowing DREAM Act-eligible youth the opportunity to serve this nation would continue this tradition of service, while expanding the market of high-quality patriotic youth, to the advantage of military recruitment and readiness.”
Department of Justice
Attorney General Eric Holder emphasized the role of the DREAM Act in promoting the “American Dream.” He said the DREAM Act must be passed because it “would provide new pathways for service and learning.” He added, “Like my father – who served as a Master Sergeant in the United States Army – many young and courageous Americans want nothing more than to strengthen their nation and to improve their own futures.” He said, “The DREAM Act would do more than expand opportunities for learning and public service for young people across the country. It would also benefit every American by helping establish a new generation of young people grounded in our nation’s finest traditions and its founding principles.”
Department of Homeland Security
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano called for passage of the DREAM Act saying, “The DREAM Act is one thing that Congress can do right now to help the Department of Homeland Security do its job of enforcing immigration laws in the way that makes the most sense for public safety for our national security.”
Defend Chipotle Workers
Beginning December 6, more than 80 workers from the Chipotle Mexican restaurant chain in Minnesota and Wisconsin have been fired without cause. The government’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) instigated the firings by demanding that the company show documentation for all its workers or face fines. In response, the company conducted a mass firing of workers who could not immediately show the documentation demanded. This was done despite the fact that many of the workers have been working for Chipotle from 6-10 years and have wages above the minimum wage starting rate.
It looks like more workers will be fired in the coming weeks. Chipotle issued a statement saying, "We are fully cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials in Minnesota in response to a request for documents they have made. Chipotle is extremely proud of its diverse and talented workforce, and is saddened by the loss of some excellent employees."
Veteran, mainly Latino workers, are being asked to train new workers who they think will become their replacements once the training is complete. This already happened at several of the restaurants where firings have already occurred.
Firings of workers, often 10 or more workers at a time, occurred at Chipotle restaurants on Grand Avenue in Saint Paul; at Lake Calhoun, Seven Corners and Downtown skyway in Minneapolis; in the Minnesota cities of Golden Valley, Coon Rapids, Richfield, Stillwater and Saint Cloud and in Hudson, Wisconsin. Firings at other stores have been reported but not verified. The total number fired is more than 80, and likely more than 100, but the exact number is difficult to know since Chipotle will not provide information.
Chipotle workers and immigrant rights activists organized a press conference on December 14 in Minneapolis to denounce the firings and demand their jobs. The workers are demanding that Chipotle give justification for the firings and that lack of documentation is not legitimate. They also ask that workers have time to resolve any problems in relation to documentation and that everyone receive full compensation for work done. Many have not been paid for their last week’s work and many are also due year-end bonuses. Chipotle is attempting to rob the workers of these wages.
The workers also demanded that ICE stop these audits, known as an I-9 audit. While previously ICE itself conducted mass raids of workplaces, now ICE makes it appear that it is the company, not the government, doing the raids. In this way the government can claim that it is “cracking down on employers,” when in fact what is occurring is continued mass firings of workers by the government. ICE is using the I-9 audits to continue to terrorize workers and their communities, as the mass firings occur with no warning or explanation.
The Chipotle raid and firings come on the heels of other recent mass firings in Minnesota based on I-9 audits. Last year 1200 janitors who worked for ABM and who were members of SEIU Local 26 in the Twin Cities were fired as a result of I-9 audits. One of the ABM workers spoke at Tuesday's press conference in solidarity with the Chipotle workers. Two months ago, more than 50 workers at a South Saint Paul hide-tanning company were fired and last week around the same number were fired at a South Saint Paul cattle-hide processing company.
Workers and activists are bringing to the fore that a job is a right and that the government is the one who must End the Raids Now! Hiding behind I-9 audits in no way changes the fact that it is the government that is unjustly targeting workers and terrorizing communities.
The Rise of the U.S. Immigration Policing Regime
A human rights report on U.S. government abuses against immigrant families, workers, and communities, December 2010, commemorating International Migrants Day, December 18, 2010.
HURRICANE’s 2009-2010 report, Injustice for All: The Rise of the Immigration Policing Regime, finds that the U.S. government has built a brutal system of immigration control and policing that criminalizes immigration status, normalizes the forcible separation of families, destabilizes communities and workplaces, and fuels widespread civil rights violations. This “immigration policing regime” is also fueling racial discrimination and hate violence against immigrants and those perceived to be foreign born or “illegal.”
Based on over 100 stories of abuse documented by NNIRR’s initiative, HURRICANE: The Human Rights Immigrant Community Action Network, Injustice for All shows how a new dimension of immigration control, ICE-police collaboration and border security, are hurting communities from the rural areas of New Mexico and North Carolina to New York City and the suburbs of Chicago.1
Injustice for All includes eleven essays by HURRICANE members in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and New York. These reports demonstrate how immigration policing impacts border and rural communities, women, Indigenous people, African and South Asian communities and workers. The report’s findings and testimonial essays bring to light the often tragic consequences of this system of immigration policing and its four identifiable pillars:
1. Relentless criminalization of immigration status and use of incarceration.
2. Persistent linking of immigration to the politics of national security and engaging in policing tactics that rely upon racial, ethnic/nationality and religious profiling.
3. Escalating militarization of immigration control and border communities; reinforcing policies and strategies that deliberately “funnel” migrants to cross through the most dangerous segments of the U.S.-Mexico border and compromise the rights and safety of border residents.
4. Scapegoating immigrants for the economic crisis and leveraging anti-immigrant sentiment to push laws and policies that cut and/or eliminate public services, roll back civil rights, environmental, labor and other social protections.
Based on extensive community-based tracking and reporting of human rights abuses, Injustice for All: The rise of the immigration control regime finds that:
• DHS is detaining and deporting immigrants at alarming rates; communities are devastated and ICE deportations impact communities and the economy.
• ICE uses prolonged and indefinite detention and the threat of loss of life and freedom to coerce persons jailed for immigration status offenses into waiving their due process rights and accept deportation.
• ICE ACCESS programs and collaboration between local police and immigration officials rely heavily on racial profiling, undermining community safety, and make immigrants more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
• ICE’s new workplace policing strategy of auditing employment files, allowing employers to fire undocumented workers en masse, has deepened the economic and humanitarian crisis in communities, increasing labor rights violations and other abuse.
• The unrelenting militarization of immigration control and border communities is deliberately causing migrant deaths and violates the rights of border communities.
• Local, county and state anti-immigrant legislative, policy proposals and ordinances across the country fuel and condone hate violence against immigrants and propel police and government abuses with impunity.
Injustice for All urges the U.S. government to undertake a major shift in immigration policies and address the patterns of human and civil rights violations. The U.S. must provide access to the adjustment of immigration status, a process long held at bay by a lack of political will and action at the federal level. Without such a shift, millions of men, women and children residing in this country will continue to face lives of fear, uncertainty and economic insecurity.
There are significant steps that the Obama Administration can authorize, including:
• The restoration of due process rights and other Constitutional protections, including access to the courts.
• The suspension of detentions and deportations, other ICE enforcement operations and high profile raids; and undertake a high-level investigation and hearings with impacted communities;
• An end to the policy and practice of jailing persons solely for immigration status offenses, except in cases where there is a high risk to public safety;
• The prohibition of ICE and local, county, state and federal law enforcement from using all forms of racial, ethnic/nationality and religious profiling;
• A thorough investigation of complaints of abuses in public and private corporate immigrant detention centers and jails; a moratorium on the expansion of detention centers and privately run prisons;
• An end to all inter-agency and immigration-police collaboration programs;
• Prohibit local, county, and state governments from legislating immigration enforcement, such as Arizona’s SB 1070;
• The roll back and end to the militarization of immigration control and border communities; end Operation Stonegarden and Operation Streamline.
We are disturbed by the lack of congressional action to enact fair immigration policies, and we call on our elected officials in the House and Senate to:
• Hold field hearings with members of interior and border communities to document the impacts and abuses caused by U.S. immigration policing and border security policies, measures and practices;
• Repeal employer sanctions and stop all E-Verify programs; protect and expand the labor rights of all workers, native and foreign-born; and increase Department of Labor inspectors;
• Repeal the 287(g) and “Secure Communities” initiatives;
• Provide and expand options to legal migration, including access to legal permanent residency and citizenship;
• Institute routine programs, including legalization, to adjust the immigration status and provide “green cards” to immigrants, to ensure civil and labor rights, keep families together and reinforce healthy communities.
Finally, we call upon the Administration and members of Congress:
• To address the root causes of displacement and involuntary migration, by promoting and implementing fair trade and sustainable community development policies;
• To help lead a nationwide condemnation of racial intolerance and xenophobia in keeping with our country’s legal and moral commitment to equality for all.
We further urge the United States to respect and uphold international human and labor rights standards, including the ratification and implementation the U.N. International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
(HURRICANE is an initiative of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, NNIRR)