The DREAM Act: How Should We Think About It?
Dec 10, 2010 by M. Daniel Carroll R. | 2 Comments
This week the House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress approved the DREAM Act. The vote went pretty much along party lines. A vote in the Senate has been pushed back a week in order to give passage a better chance.
What is the DREAM Act? “DREAM” is the acronym for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act. This piece of legislation lays out a path toward future legal status for those undocumented young people who have graduated from high school and who are of high moral character. There are certain requirements, such as further education or military service, and a timeline of several years that must be met in order to attain permanent legal residency. How should Christians respond to this development in the immigration reform discussion?
The first thing to do is to educate yourself. Wikipedia has a very helpful article on the DREAM Act, which explains its provisions and offers an historical account of its formulation. This can be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DREAM_Act.
The second key point is do not get swayed by misleading rhetoric. Opponents are calling this “amnesty.” To label the DREAM Act “amnesty” is to reveal an ignorance (willful or innocent) of the English language and to play dishonest politics. One dictionary defines “amnesty” as “an act of forgiveness for past offenses, esp. to a class of persons as a whole.” That is, it is some sort of unilateral decree of pardon for a crime. One could get into a discussion about whether the reality that these young people who were brought to this country without documentation by their parents when they were small means that they have committed a crime by virtue of just being here. I direct attention elsewhere: The fact that this law lays out a process that would take years to complete and demands strict compliance by definition signifies that THIS IS NOT AMNESTY! These young people are now in a no-man’s land: now separated for many years from the land of their birth, connected to a new cultural context that is ambivalent (even hostile sometimes) about their presence, and unable to move forward to integrate into their communities in this country.
The third point, and the most important, is: relate this discussion (and the rest of the immigration debate!) to Christian faith. Remember, for example, Genesis 1. All people, every person – even immigrants! – are made in the image of God and thus have value and unlimited potential to contribute to the common good. The question that should be the guiding compass in discussions about this law is: How can we facilitate the legal process to help these young people maximize all that God has created them to be? If we accomplish this, the country will benefit in all sorts of ways. In addition to the values statement that would be made, there are pragmatic gains: new energy, racial bridge building, job creation, the expansion and elevation of the tax base, etc. Every one wins, and this would be grounded in a fundamental belief of our faith: the image of God. And, do not forget that thousands of these young people are brothers and sisters in Christ.
As we have sad on other occasions, the core values of a nation’s legislation is made manifest by what it does with the vulnerable in its midst. This is a major lesson we can take away from the Old Testament law. It is a lesson we need to keep learning in the U.S. today.
Are you willing to contact your Senator and speak up for these young people?