It seems that the Republicans don’t ever want the Latino vote. Ever. Why? Because they don’t ever want to give millions of undocumented Latinos the chance to vote for them… Obama got 71% of the Latino vote this past month, it SEEMED like the Republicans had learned something from these numbers.
This week the Republicans presented the ACHIEVE Act, their version of the DREAM Act. The requirements are much more stringent than the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) implemented by the Obama administration in August and it is clear that the Republicans do not plan to incorporate even childhood immigrants into the fibers of our nation.
ACHIEVE (the name really gets me!) requires the child to have entered before turning 14 years old (DACA is under 16). While I had a hard time accepting that a child that was brought here at 16 has no possibility of legalizing his or her status, this new proposal asks me to accept punishing 14 year olds for something they had no control over. The new proposal also brings down the maximum age of the applicant to 29 (at time of implementation, so 27ish now?) from 30. While I understand most things in life have a cutoff and someone is going to lose, how does it make any sense to tell someone that, though they were brought here as a child at the age of 5, they have simply been in the United States too long and dug their roots too deep to be granted any sort of recourse. Try explaining that one to a 32 year old who came here in her early teens, paid for college out of pocket, and graduated in 8 years because they she to work 2 jobs – but she graduated and now owns a home, has US Citizen kids, is married to a US Citizen, pays her taxes and has no trace of an accent. Nonetheless, according to both of these proposals, she has just been here too long to be able to be a part of us.
Furthermore, in addition to a high school diploma, the Act requires either higher education or military service. Considering that undocumented youth cannot get access to in state tuition or financial aid, this is a catch 22 as many of them NEED status in order to attend University yet status is being kept from them unless they are in University. Moreover, are we comfortable with pushing kids into our volunteer military in exchange for immigration status? While many immigrants wish to pursue military service as they are highly patriotic to the United States and are willing to sacrifice to protect our way of life, do we need to apply this kind of pressure to recruit military men and women?
Most importantly, ACHIEVE would grant “permanent non immigrant status”, whatever that means. The only thing that is clear about this term is that it is not a pathway to residency and/or citizenship. This means that these youth will forever be second class citizens without the right to vote, equal access to higher education, protection from harm when abroad, and of course, the feeling of belonging somewhere that is their only home.
Just like with civil rights and gay marriage there is a right and wrong side to history on immigration reform and especially when dealing with those who were brought here as minors. Over time, more or less time, the right side will prevail because it is inevitable. Which side do you want to be on?