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Statement on the DREAM Act

by Association of Raza Educators
Los Angeles, California

The Association of Raza Educators fully supports the educational component of the DREAM Act. We support higher education for all students, both documented and undocumented. However, as Raza Educators, who work with undocumented students on a daily basis; we denounce the military component of the DREAM Act. We feel compelled to educate our students and communities about the military component of the DREAM Act. Unfortunately, this deadly component is strategically excluded from the debate by many Democrats and organizations who support the DREAM Act.

As educators, we know that public education continues to fail to graduate more than half of our youth due to the structural, institutional, and social barriers. These barriers include underfunding, overcrowding, and racially segregated schooling that many Latinos must overcome. As a result of these conditions, of the few that do graduate, only a select few continue on to higher education. This means that the majority of Latino youth, most of which have been tracked out of the college system, will see military enlist as the only viable option  

In essence, the Dream Act will create a de facto military draft for our undocumented youth. We say de facto because although students are given a "choice," the fact is that the deplorable and inadequate conditions of Latino schooling will make military enlistment the only "choice" for our undocumented youth.

As educators, we also know that in predominantly Latino high schools, military recruiters outnumber college representatives five to one. We have also seen first hand the misleading tactics military recruiters use to trick Latino youth to enlist. If the DREAM Act passes, military recruiters will further mislead and seduce our youth with false promises of instant legalization and a well paying job. They will completely militarize our youth and our schools.

With this reality, we pose the question; where will those students end up? Dead on the battlefield in Iraq or Afghanistan? Will they join the 6,000 troops that are currently occupying the U.S./ Mexico border?

If the US continues to invade other countries, will our youth be forced to kill other poor people in places like Venezuela, Iran and Cuba? Who will console the grieving mothers of our children who die in Iraq or who will return to their homes completely disfigured?  The Dream Act will become the nightmare for the mothers and fathers of children who died in Iraq in search of a "Green Card." These Latino youth and our communities will become victims of the DREAM Act.

We believe that our students and our communities as a whole deserve full and immediate legalization without having to serve in the military. As long as the DREAM Act includes a military component, A.R.E. will continue to oppose it.

The Association of Raza Educators does not come here to antagonize or minimize the efforts of those who advocate for the Dream Act on behalf of undocumented students. We are here to challenge all organizations that support the DREAM Act to join us in the struggle for the legalization of all students and our entire community by supporting a stronger and more just bill that doesn't force any of our youth to join the U.S. military. We are all brothers and sisters in this struggle, but we must never negotiate the future of our youth in exchange for the legalization of a few of our students.

Please consider the following points:

Military Statistics:

  • There are currently 750,000 undocumented residents of military age
  • There are 35,000 Non-citizen legal residents in the U.S. Military
  • 280,000 immigrants between the ages of 18-24 would qualify for the DREAM Act.
  • 8,000 join the military each year as part of an accelerated path to citizenship (most legal residents already)
  • 4,000 immigrants in uniform became citizens in 2005, compared to 750 in 2001

Education Statistics:

  • 2006-2007 Public School Student Population in California: 2.8 million
  • Estimated Undocumented Student Population in California: 408,000
  • Number of undocumented students graduating each year: 65,000
  • Only 1 out of 20 undocumented high school seniors attends college

We have been working for the betterment of our communities long before the DREAM Act and we will continue to do so if it passes or hopefully, after it fails. We propose that all persons and organizations who have been actively supporting the DREAM Act join forces and continue to push for a DREAM Act without military provisions. When we remove the military provision, A.R.E. will work with you in this struggle. The DREAM Act's education component is a wonderful dream that we share with you.

Published in In Motion Magazine August 22, 2007

Also see:

  • On the DREAM Act:
    An Open Letter to Latino and Latina students
    and all leaders of immigrant rights organizations
    by Fernando Suarez del Solar
    San Diego, California