Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Latino Youth Defines DREAM Act as a De Facto Military Draft

By VAMOS Unidos Youth

We write this statement to raise our voices as Latino youth working and living in the Bronx, New York in opposition to the DREAM ACT as it stands. We demand that we return to our original DREAM ACT that had a community service option instead of a military one. The military has been losing their numbers due to the multiple wars the US has begun. The DREAM ACT would hand us over on a platter to fight these unjust wars. The DREAM ACT has been warped over the years to draft Latino youth into the military, as they need more and more soldiers to fight their wars.

We have been living under harsh conditions. Our communities have been historically underprivileged, with militarized streets, schools that seem more like jails than educational institutions, and poverty that pushes people to desperation and sadness. We have grown up with the trauma of having our family members and friends detained, jailed, and deported. But we are strong and determined, so we keep onwards. We have stood next to our parents as they worked as street vendors, as they were ticketed, arrested, and sometimes assaulted by police for trying to make a living. We, as youth, have also been ticketed and arrested alongside our parents. We have come to understand what it is to be humiliated and then stand and fight for what is right, what is principled, what is just. Our parents’ unrelenting strength to fight for us and their rights have taught us to always stand up for what is right and never sell out.

We have asked ourselves “Is the DREAM ACT an advantage or disadvantage for us as immigrant youth?” Many of us were excited about the possibility of getting documents and finally being able to be recognized as human beings, be able to get a job, an education, and help our families. Along with our teachers and mentors we delved into community organizing and becoming politically conscious. We began learning about our history and our people’s resistance. We then expanded to other cultures and histories and began to appreciate them. We marched side by side with youth from all over the world including South Asia and the Middle East. We saw that within our hearts there was no difference, and enjoyed each other’s company and diversity. Our spirits were momentarily paralyzed when we began learning about the effects of war and how their families and communities had been destroyed. We began to ask ourselves “How can we stop these wars, how can we help?” Our political education allowed us to see through the military propaganda and the army recruiters in our blocks and schools. Speaking to our peers we saw how the military was using them to fight wars that didn’t concern us and killed our friends. This forced us to look at the DREAM ACT a lot closer.


THE DREAM ACT REVEALED


In order to qualify for the DREAM ACT you have to have migrated before the age of 16 and have proof of residence in the United States for five consecutive years since the date of arrival. Also, you have to have graduated from high school or have a GED. This would eliminate many of our older youth, those that did not finish high school, and recent arrivals. You must then complete the following:

  1. Serve two years in the military, or;
  2. Finish two years of bachelor’s program or higher degree in the US.

What happened to the community service option that the original DREAM ACT contained? Why did our supposed advocates allow for the removal of the community service option? Was it because it became in this form the DREAM ACT became winnable? At what expense?


Two Years of College


The first option on the DREAM ACT is to go to school for at least two years; this is great for people who can afford the high tuition rates. But what about those of us who do not have enough money for the tuition, the books, and personal expenses? Also let’s not forget about our families who have more than one undocumented child who needs to go to school to get their papers.


DREAM ACT proponents say that most people will not go to the military, that they can afford school if we work. Unfortunately those folks are distanced from our realities and don’t understand our economic hardships. We broke down the cost of each year in school without the aid of Pell Grants or Financial Aid for attending two years of a four years University; our calculations were the following for a university in Ohio, which does not allow in-state tuition for undocumented students:


Cleveland State University: Out of State

  • 12 Credit Hours - $7,884.00 X 2 = 1 Year = $15,768.00 X 2 years = $31,536.00
  • Expenses for Students Living at Home with their Parents = $6,568.00 X 2 years = 13,136.00
  • GRAND TOTAL = $44,672.00

Only 10 states allow for undocumented students to pay for in-state tuition. The majority of undocumented youth would have to pay amounts as stated in the example above. We are lucky to be in New York as it is one of the states that allow undocumented youth to apply for in-state tuition. At the same time we understand that by accepting the terms under the DREAM ACT most youth would not have the same opportunity we do here in New York. Undocumented youth in states like North Carolina, Virginia, Illinois, Ohio, New Mexico would be forced to take the military option in large numbers as they would not be able to pay the high prices of education. For this reason we do not support the DREAM ACT.


Two Years of Military Requirement


We, the VAMOS UNIDOS YOUTH, do not support the DREAM ACT due to the military component. The fact that it has been introduced as a defense appropriation bill adds insult to injury. The DREAM ACT is a de facto military draft, forcing undocumented youth to fight in unjust wars in exchange for the recognition as human beings, a Green Card. This is a trick by the politicians, Democratic Party, and DC immigration advocates. The same way many supposed “advocates” for immigrant rights sold out the community with Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR), they now sell us out with the DREAM ACT. We stand against any militarization- whether it is of the border, our communities, or our status. We will not kill innocent people in exchange for Green Cards.


Our parents have firmly stated in their fight for immigration reform, “We will not accept papers tainted with the blood of our people still crossing the border and dying,” in regards to CIR and it’s militarization of the border component. We say the same “We will not be used for the wars of the corporations and the rich in any part of the world in exchange of blood-stained immigration papers.”


We make a call out to all community organizations and allies to stand firmly on what is principled, against the DREAM ACT if it contains the military provision. Our fight will not be won in one or two years. We are prepared to organize our communities and struggle for many years. We cannot negotiate out our lives, our dignity, and the lives of others. We must rethink our strategies and take control away from the DC immigration advocates which have shown us they don’t have our interest. They have watered down good legislation at a very high cost to the community. Our communities need to decide and take control. We stand with our brothers and sisters affected by wars; we feel their pain and desperation. We will not be used to decimate other countries and their people. Thus, we stand together against the DREAM ACT with the militarization component and fight for what is principled, even if it takes us a very long time.


In Solidarity,


VAMOS UNIDOS YOUTH

vamosunidos@gmail.com


VAMOS Unidos: Vendedores Ambulantes Movilizando y Organizando en Solidaridad (Street Vendors Mobilizing and Organizing in Solidarity), is a Bronx, NY, community-based social justice organization founded by low-income Latina/Latino immigrant street vendors.

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4 Comments:

At 10:00 AM, Blogger Isabel said...

Viva--I have found all of the accounts of brown youth who discuss wanting to join the military but being unable to problematic in discussions of the DREAM Act.--the discourse needs to reframe patriotism not in terms of war as defense, but in terms of intellectual capital and knowledge building as defense. Love VU youth's post!

 
At 4:09 PM, Blogger E Loves You! said...

I liked your post on the Dream Act. I wonder if you would be interested in allow me to post some of your content on our blog
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so that others may see some of your writing?

Thanks for writing such great pieces and please contact me if you have any questions.
-E

 
At 12:59 PM, Blogger Nissar said...

I think the reason why they were able to succeed with this version of the Dream Act was because the anti-war movement and the immigrant rights movement are segregated from each other. The anti-war movement is simply not strong enough right now and we are seeing how wars are affecting our communities, which needs to be exposed right now to our latin communities, and other communities of color. This Dream Act is a testament and evidence that the government splitting the movement to peace, or social justice. Now our next move must involve uniting all people against the elements of war and oppression in our communities. For everyone to stand together in not just putting the feet of capitalists, and fascists to the fire but throwing them in fire never again to come back. Fuck I don't care if the feds are looking at this or not. Because even though the Dream Act was a tiny victory, it was a serious piece of immigration reform, and it was corrupted by an opportunity to exploit the division of the anti-war movement, and the immigrant rights movement. Our resolve must be stronger than that. This piece of legislation will affect millions of kids for the better, but it shouldn't let us forget about how we must connect the dots between not just the immigrant rights movement, and the anti-war movement, but all social justice movements happening in the United States.

 
At 3:03 PM, Blogger Nissar said...

I think that we should have passed the previous version of the Dream Act. I think the military provision should not have been in the equation. But on the other hand. We have millions of kids who's lives are here in the US. And to call them un-American is like a slap in the face to all of them. To deny them of the right to a job with a living wage, to deny them of an education at a reasonable cost rather than adding the amount of debt in order to go to school, and to deny them the right of an opportunity to flourish and grow is a crime. The government and the capitalists on Wall Street who have the government wrapped around their finger is doing this every day to all of us. I don't blame the Dreamers who are trying to get this opportunity and they have succeeded. We must learn from this and find strength in those lessons learned to create a larger movement for social justice. We cannot let this opportunity fall by the way side

 

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