By Justin Valas

Since the beginning of our advocacy, Senator Hagan’s understanding of the DREAM Act’s requirements has evolved. It is also clear from reading her response to the DREAM Act that there is still much work to do in correcting some of the misunderstandings guiding her position on the bill. Since the Senate is no longer in session, we have taken advantage of her constituent services meetings. The most recent of which was held this past Friday in Cary, NC.

Rosario holding her ITIN card
Photo by Justin Valas

Rosario and I walked into the room wearing our graduation caps, which definitely caught the attention of Senator Hagan and her staff. We wanted to give them a strong visual. That’s why we also thought to bring Viridiana and Rosario’s ITIN cards to show her that undocumented persons file income tax, contribute to Social Security and Medicare and that, in fact, the government is well aware of it. Let’s be clear, even undocumented immigrants pay taxes.

Undocumented Tax PayersPhoto by J. Valas

Following some ‘passionate defenders‘ opposed to the health care reform law, our message stood in stark contrast. It was a welcome change for at least some of the staffers listening in on our conversation. Rosario and Viridiana showed the Senator their ITIN cards and explained to her that they willingly pay their income taxes, just like any other American should. The quandary for Senator Hagan is that if her idea of immigration reform includes “protecting tax-payers,” what does that mean for the countless undocumented immigrants who willingly pay their taxes as the government asks them to? Her response: “I mean legal tax-payers.”

What about government-issued documents is so clandestine, or “illegal?” Does the Senator think there is some sort of nefarious plot by undocumented immigrants to pay taxes to support the country that they now call home, thinking “haha, now this will show them–“I’m going to pay money into a system that refuses to pay benefits back out to me?”

Educator explaining the need for DREAM to Senator HaganPhoto by J. Valas

The event had great representation from community members concerned about immigration issues. Another familiar face in the crowd was that of a local educator to whom, in their words, the “education of students, both documented and undocumented, is entrusted” who spoke about the tragedy of watching bright students (like our brave hunger strikers) denied a chance to realize their full potential and contribute as full members to the society they call home. We also heard from community members concerned about the money being thrown into the desert winds while providing no better path to a just immigration reform.

The “tax payers” need not worry about the dangers of undocumented individuals abusing their tax dollars; rather, it is the undocumented tax payers who are being abused. The “tax payers” are subsidizing neither undocumented people through welfare or food stamps, nor those who have to go to the hospital to preserve their health. Consider this a quick plug for a tasty way to help support another DREAMer who will receive no government-paid support and faces a staggering hospital bill- see how you can help Loida through the kindness of your own hearts (and stomachs)!