September 20, 2007 Editorial

Pass the Dream Act
A small but worthy step toward immigration reform is returning as an amendment to the defense authorization bill. As the Senate debates that fat holiday wish book for the Pentagon, it should rescue this sliver of bipartisan good sense from the wreckage of last summer’s failed immigration debate. It’s called the Dream Act, and it offers a path to citizenship to illegal immigrants’ children after they graduate from high school and complete two years of military service or college. Its Senate sponsors, including Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Richard Lugar of Indiana, have championed it as a way to open a future to talented children whose opportunities are closed because of their parents’ decision to immigrate here illegally. They also see it as giving a needed boost to the military by opening a new stream of high-quality recruits. The idea is modest and smart, but modest and smart usually don’t get very far these days. The anti-immigrant forces that buried the Senate’s comprehensive reforms under a wave of faxes and phone calls are at it again over the revival of this small part of that much bigger bill. They are convinced that giving a break to blameless young men and women — maybe about a million — who want to earn a college degree or serve in the military weakens the country instead of strengthening it. Their hostility to nurturing a new cohort of American citizens, their reflexive “no” even to this limited attempt at immigration decency, lays bare the bankruptcy of their self-defeating passions. Passing the Dream Act would do more than give deserving young people a path beyond dead-end jobs and lives in the shadows. It would honor the thousands of immigrant soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The lengthening list of those who have given their lives includes Cpl. Juan Mariel Alcántara, a 22-year-old New Yorker who was born in the Dominican Republic. The official date that he became an American was Aug. 6, the same day that a bomb killed him and three fellow soldiers in Baquba, north of Baghdad. He was the 103rd immigrant to become a citizen posthumously in this war. Passage would also give encouragement to the budding activists on college campuses around the country who have rallied behind the Dream Act for themselves and their schoolmates. And it would give a small dose of hope to those who watched in dismay as Congress’s attempts at serious immigration reform last year and this year were demonized, disfigured and finally killed. It would show that the country has not entirely lost its ability to recognize, with grace and gratitude, the great potential in the immigrants among us. Home
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