This week I heard a story of a young man, Albert Becerril of Warrenville, Ill. He came to the United States when he was 2 years old. He got in trouble for smoking pot and wound up being deported back to Mexico, a country he didn't know. He didn't even speak Spanish.
This radio story is compelling but it didn't mention that there is a possible solution for these young people. It's called the Dream Act.
It would legalize undocumented youth who immigrated to the United States before age 16, have lived here for at least five years, graduated from high school and have a clean criminal record. They would be eligible for legal status if they complete two years of college or military service.
Why do this?
For one, these kids were brought to this country by their parents. They didn't decide to cross the border on their own. So how can we punish them?
Second, many of these children came here so young that they are
culturally American. They have attended our schools, speak English and
in many cases don't know their country of birth.
Third, by going to college or the military these young people will make
a greater contribution our society and the economy. Why condemn them to
second-class status or worse deport them back to countries like Mexico?
I've written about these young people when I was a reporter for the
Chicago Tribune, in editorials and columns I wrote at the
Sun-Times and most recently in a column on the Web site I founded last year called Latina Voices.
We can't let these young people live in limbo. Illinois Sen. Dick
Durbin has be a main proponent of the Dream Act, which was voted down
in Congress in 2007.
Now that we have a new president, Obama needs to pressure Congress to revive and pass the Dream Act.