Although Mex Files has stopped, for the most part, writing about U.S. immigration politics (others are better qualified to do so, and have been better positioned to do so), it doesn’t mean I’ve completely forgotten about it. As most of you already know, last Saturday
Senate Republicans have blocked a bill to grant hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children a chance to gain legal status if they enroll in college or join the military.
Sponsors of what they call the Dream Act needed 60 Senate votes for it, but fell five short. The House passed the bill last week.
It was a last-ditch effort to enact it before it Republicans take control of the House from Democrats in January.
Immigrant advocates viewed the measure as a step toward providing a path to legal status for up to 12 million illegal immigrants by focusing on the most sympathetic among them first…
I admit I had misgivings about the DREAM Act, mostly in that it forced immigrant minors into military service unless they pursued a higher education after high school. I am all in favor of post-secondary education, but immigrants have always faced a hurdle in obtaining even a minimal education, not the least for economic reasons. It seems unreasonable to expect a migrant laborer child to have the luck to finish high school. Nor is there anything wrong with a child whose aspirations are “traditional” and who might not need a higher education to work in the family business, or fulfill his or her expected social role. I may think it is “wrong” to start a family at 17 or 18, but these things happen, and parenting doesn’t always lend itself to educational fulfillment.
Which means, for many, basically being forced to join the military, though hardly of their own free will. It was ironic that this bill was defeated the same day another bill, which opened military service to gays and lesbians (or, rather, finally acknowledged that gays and lesbians are already serving in the military, and always have) finally made it though the Senate, only 18 years after proposing a perfectly normal change to an obsolete military personnel matter.
At least, those who can now serve openly are those who volunteered with at least a modicum of willingness (I’m leaving out those who join the military out of economic necessity), but “thanks” to the Republicans and other reactionaries, I suppose there’s something positive to be said in the defeat of the DREAM Act: at least slowing down for at least one group of U.S. residents the mindless trend toward creeping militarization in the United States .
But, I admit, that is a pretty thin argument for opposing the DREAM Act, which I did support (with reservations… I don’t believe for a minute it was an “opening”, but would have meant involuntary servitude for generations of irregular immigrants… a risk other supports of the DREAM Act were willing to take). Without passage, what I am likely to see from my small corner of a country that sends so many immigrants to keep the U.S. economy afloat is an increased influx of what are basically “foreign” workers. It’s not all that weird to me to run into people who are Mexicans by nationality, but Mexican-American by culture (sometimes two very different things, Mexican and Mexican-American culture) .
Because I live in a resort town, a lot of the existing work-force is already composed of people whose only edge is speaking English. Now we’re getting people who — not by their own volition, nor by any thing for which they can be held morally responsible — have to compete with established workers, and may not have the other skills sets needed. Just because an 18 year old can speak English doesn’t mean she can wait tables, especially if she’s just spent the past four years doing everything possible to get into the university, and her parents were sacrificing to keep her studying, and not having to work an outside job. And, we’re going to get those who have started a higher education, but still lack the professional qualifications needed in Mexico. A student in a field like accounting or computer science MIGHT be able to get some kind of job that will at least support him or herself, but what can Mexico do with partially educated people? They can’t all drive taxis and tout for time share companies.
This is a tragedy for the United States, where the workforce is aging and where the need is for more skilled workers. And for Mexico, which will have to somehow absorb these reluctant returnees. And even more, for the returnees themselves.
As a teenager, Langston Hughes was plucked from his home in Lawrence Kansas by his father who had emigrated to Toluca. Faced with the racism African Americans could expect to be their lot in the United States, Hughes Sr. planned to have Langston educated as an engineer in a more racially tolerant society. Langston had other plans. Although he would, in the end prevail, becoming a prominent U.S. poet, despite the racism and over his father’s objections, he understood very well the tragedy … and the potential for violence… of a dream deferred:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?