DREAM Act’s failure denies opportunity for those who need it most

By Arturo Corso
To borrow a phrase: “When a defining moment comes along, you must define the moment, or the moment will define you.”
Saturday, a defining moment presented itself to the conservatives in the Senate, 38 from the Republican party and, sadly, five from the Democratic side. It was the moment that cut through all the cow-patty rhetoric about immigration reform an laid bare the true colors of all involved. You know, the oft-repeated refrain, “we don’t have anything against immigrants, we just want them to come here legally.” But when it was time to put their money where there mouth was, the moment defined them.

The DREAM Act, which proposed a path to lawful residence for immigrant children brought here as infants (before having their own free will), and who also better themselves and America by enlisting in the Army or attending college, was dealt a death blow by filibuster.

What a sad day. A uniquely American dream crushed by a uniquely antiquated political maneuver. It proved deafeningly that conservative lip service about compassion for the better future of our nation shall always yield to the cruel reality of institutionalized prejudice against minority races. Even the “family values” mantra of lifting up our children was ignored.

Here is the bottom line: conservatives are punishing innocent children for the “sins” of their fathers. These kids did nothing wrong, nothing but be born poor in a foreign land. Through no fault of their own, they find themselves in America now, speaking English and with no ties to their former home.

They were born in a nation beset on all sides by violence and corruption, the product of our own nation’s insatiable thirst for illegal drugs and cheap labor. Now these children will have to return there, a veritable death sentence or – if they’re lucky – just life in dangerous poverty.

This is nothing new. Maintaining a permanent underclass is the blueprint for conservative political power. It is the game plan for concentrating immense individual wealth in a small group of power brokers. The targets of this plan have always been minorities: enslaved African-Americans, then Chinese immigrants, free blacks and now Mexican immigrants.

Lest you suspect me of appealing to class warfare, consider this nugget: Just a couple of years ago, I sat in the renovated Longstreet Hotel and listened to a local politician lecture a group of teachers (of all people!) about the concept that not every kid needs to go to college. He droned on and on incredibly about how we were foolishly spending money on graduation coaches when we should be herding kids toward a practical trade.

Outrageous. “The world needs ditch diggers, too” is not a modern education plan, but it is coded language for denying blacks a chance at college. Class warfare is being waged against citizen children, too.

Unless you honestly want your child to earn a ditch diggers’ wages and pay a third of them back to the government for her trouble, know this truth: Blocking kids from college, or kicking good kids out of college and imprisoning them for being foreigners before deporting them to a war zone, is no example of the greatness of America. And it is but the first step toward economically enslaving those American children who remain.

By trying to keep our children dumbed-down, conservatives keep America down. By suppressing an electorate from full access to higher education, we guarantee America a dynasty of inept political leaders who proudly announce that they don’t read.

Any teacher will tell you: Those who don’t value knowledge value ignorance by default. Ignorance leads us into wars of false pretense and economic depressions that funnel billions into Wall Street coffers from Main Street pockets.

How can any person of color believe for a second that the conservative party has a place for them? Has a plan that includes success for them? No, sir. They mock you (“How’s that ‘hopey-changey’ thing working out for you?”) even as they watch you lose your home, your job, your retirement savings. Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi says of segregation in his hometown growing up, “I don’t remember it being that bad.”

Really? This is the leader of the Republican National Governor’s Association. He is a contender for president in 2012. And he thinks back fondly on segregation? Next, they’ll try and bring back slavery. A black or Latino Republican is an irony as perplexing as … well, it makes no sense whatsoever, even in a time when Americans routinely vote against our own best interests.

Lend me your ears, brothers and sisters. “We” means those of us who love America, no matter where you were born, or what color you are. We are Americans, too! We have the spirit of America coursing through our blood and, if given the chance, we will bleed and sweat for her. In return, all we ask is for a reasonable chance for the successes of generations who came before us.

We deserve to have our voices heard in a Democratic society. We deserve majority rule, not obstructionist maneuvers. We deserve leaders who govern with the best interests of our children in mind, not those who plot how best to exploit them. We deserve to reach for the highest level of education available and eschew the ignorance that our oppressors use to lash us to the ladder’s bottom rung.
Climb, children. Define your moment. When next we cast our votes for American governance, we minority voters will be greater in number than ever in history. And we will remember the names of those who stood up to be counted against us.

Arturo Corso is a Gainesville attorney.

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