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Congress soon will have the opportunity to again consider passage of the DREAM Act. This legislation is a portion of the comprehensive immigration reform legislation that has stalled previously.
The DREAM Act would apply to children of undocumented immigrant parents who are under 16 and have lived in the United States for at least five years. It would give them the opportunity to pursue citizenship, provided they can meet certain requirements, including attaining a college degree or service in the military. This legislation is important to who we are as a country and is particularly important to the future of our particular area.
Teachers have historically encouraged students by preaching to them that hard work and discipline are the only roads to education success. The current anti-immigrant moves by many states, including Georgia, is having and will have a particularly destructive effect on opportunities for children of undocumented parents. If we continued to place roadblocks in the way of success, we will create a two-tiered path to advancement. One path is for those of us lucky enough to have been born to U.S. citizens, and another for those who, through American in every way except status and through no fault of their own, have no opportunity to participate in the American dream.
I'm particularly concerned about the effect of the anti-immigration wave in our own area. Much of the economic success of our area over the last 20 years has been because of abundant labor. A thriving immigrant population has not only provided necessary labor but has contributed significantly to the economic health of our area by buying everything from food to cars and houses.
I believe the current anti-immigrant efforts are having ripple effects by convincing even documented immigrants that Gainesville-Hall County is not a welcoming place. As a result, I believe many of these folks move or stay in the shadows and refuse to participate in institutions that have historically united us throughout our history.
It's understandable that a person of Latino heritage may have concerns about public participation when husbands, cousins or friends risk deportation as a result of minor infractions like fishing without a license.
Many times, government policies have unintended consequences. The anti-immigration wave, including our local enforcement of the 287(g) program, is bad for our community. Passage of the DREAM Act would be one small step toward a return to a saner, more just and merciful future, particularly at Christmas. A nation that brags about its Christian heritage should do no less.