By Justin Valas

Despite the exciting success of gaining Congressman G.K. Butterfield as a supporter of the DREAM Act, Senator Kay Hagan continues her opposition to the bill. I address my response to her opposition in the letter being sent to her offices, pasted below.

Senator Kay Hagan,

Over the past year, undocumented youth from across the country have come out of the shadows to show the human face of our broken immigration system. From letters, phone calls, articles, declarations of support, hunger strikes, sit-ins, die-ins, acts of civil disobedience, and numerous lobby visits- you have refused to see these faces. You have shown your priorities, choosing meeting a trick-performing mule over the youth upon whom The Independent Weekly conferred the Citizen Award.

You have repeatedly refused action on tangible steps towards immigration reform, while professing your support for a comprehensive approach to immigration reform that you neither helped to draft nor co-sponsor. Your name appears nowhere in the Schumer-Graham framework introduced early this year. In September, you had another chance to support Comprehensive Immigration Reform when Senator Menendez introduced S. 3932- the CIR Act of 2010. For a proponent of CIR your absence from the list of co-sponsors is telling. Your vote does however appear on S.3721.IS- an emergency funding bill for stricter border enforcement measures, including the deployment of additional drones at the border. Hardly a “comprehensive” approach to immigration reform.

You say that you don’t want a bill that doesn’t address the issues facing our communities, as if the DREAM Act would be an end to the struggle for immigration reform. As if we would stop struggling for our communities. As if we, the youth in this movement, would abandon our older siblings, our parents, and our abuelitos. If you had any understanding of this movement, and the young people leading it, you would know better. Had you any idea that we took part in actions against Arizona’s SB 1070, led know your rights trainings, struggled to re-unify a family broken apart by our immigration system, or had the support of our parents in this struggle- you might sing a different tune.

You had both the time and audacity to sponsor a bill (S.RES.353.ATS) supporting American Education Week, while the time to co-sponsor a natural extension of that bill, the DREAM Act, seems to have escaped you. The opening line of the Presidential Proclamation for that week asserts:

Education is essential to our success as both a people and a Nation. During American Education Week, we rededicate ourselves to providing a complete and competitive education for every student, from cradle through career.

From your own bill:

[E]quipping young people in the United States with both practical skills and broader intellectual abilities, public schools give young people hope for, and access to, a productive future;

The costs of your refusal are not just productive futures and a better United States, your inaction is costing lives. If you are so concerned about the families of these undocumented youth, where is your concern as the same families mourn the suicide of their children who feel they have no future? How many more families must suffer this loss? How many more parents must suffer the remorse of frustrated futures for their children? How many more families must be separated from their children either through deportation or voluntary departure?

As a Senator who owes her seat to communities of color, I would hope that you would recognize the importance of standing by these communities. Despite losing the white vote by 18 points, you still claimed victory in 2008. New immigrants and immigrant youth voters (Latino and Asian alone) represent 120,000 votes in North Carolina- that’s nearly 10 times the margin of victory that separated President Obama from Senator John McCain in 2008.

As a US citizen and one of your voting constituents, I have been proud to stand by my undocumented friends and family in this struggle, a struggle which you have ignored. Yes, members of my family are undocumented, and not all of them will benefit from the passage of the DREAM Act. If you think that DREAMers are going to step out of the shadows and be content to leave their, our, families in them- you are sorely mistaken. While every other governmental and organizational proponent of Comprehensive Immigration Reform has come on board for the passage of the DREAM Act, you stand alone in opposition. You are single-handedly forcing these brave youth back into the shadows. You are single-handedly ensuring more pain for their families. You are single-handedly responsible for pain and suffering in the very communities to whom you owe your position. If you think that the incoming congress will be any more likely to take even a minuscule step to help reform our immigration system in a comprehensive way, you are again sorely mistaken.

To be clear, you are standing in opposition to the President; your party leadership; the Secretaries of Homeland Security, Defense, and Education; the Department of Defense; former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell; leaders of faith communities throughout North Carolina; your constituents; and countless others. You are instead standing with groups that willfully distort the truth in order to advance their xenophobic anti-immigrant agenda.

I urge you to carefully consider your position and the impacts of your inaction. North Carolina’s motto is Esse Quam Videri, and I challenge you to be, rather than seem, a friend to immigrant communities. Don’t be mistaken, your continued insistence on Comprehensive Immigration Reform in the face of legislative down-payment on that reform does not make you a friend of immigrant communities. You have a chance to do the right thing, and I strongly urge you to support the DREAM Act.

Sincerely,

Justin Valas

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