Still a Dream?

When we listen to the young people who have come forward about their undocumented legal status, we hear them express unvarnished optimism about the passage of the DREAM Act.  (Listen, for example, to the testimony on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, this week.) After all, the House passed the Act a few days ago, and Senate leaders continue to press for a vote.  More significantly, it’s the best hope for these people to make some kind of decent life for themselves.  Their evaluations aren’t based on counting votes in the Senate so much as hoping for a way forward for themselves–and for the country.  As a college senior who came to the US from Korea at age 9 said:

And I know it will pass next week because it is the only immigration legislation right now that has some kind of chance to actually fix our broken immigration system. And it will happen.

Virtually all the political pundits actually counting votes suggest otherwise.  And, unlike Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal, the DREAMers can’t count on the courts to intervene on their behalf.  The next Congress is likely to be far less sympathetic to the DREAM.

Activists virtually always have undue optimism about their prospects for influence.  It’s the kind of suspension of disbelief that helps the successful salesman pitching after hearing no a few times, and it’s virtually necessary to help change the world.

I suspect, however, that the fallout will be much greater here.  The activists don’t have homes in Korea or Pakistan or Mexico to go to. Rather, they will find ways to continue, as best they can, to find ways to support themselves and continue the political struggle (now more than a decade old) to find a way to create real opportunities for themselves.  All will depend upon how the rest of America responds to the efforts to keep the DREAM alive.

About David S. Meyer

Author and professor of Sociology and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine
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