After being criticized by Latinos throughout the country for his Tea Party-friendly anti-immigrant positions, Florida Senator and rumored GOP Vice-Presidential possibility, Marco Rubio, has started introducing the idea of what some are calling the “Republican DREAM Act.”
Rubio and the GOP appear to finally be waking up an important political fact that any candidate for national office in this year's elections will have to consider: 90% of Latino voters support DREAM Act youth like us --according to a recently released Fox News Latino poll of likely Latino voters-- and they will not forget those who mistreat, lie to and manipulate us.
Unfortunately, Senator Rubio’s so-called “bipartisan compromise” starts with a dream-killing proposal: To strip young immigrants like us of the possibility of becoming United States citizens.
Rubio's “DREAM Act without a dream” approach is an invitation to exploitation. It is a 21st Century Bracero program. As with the old Bracero program, a guest worker program of the 40's, 50's and 60's that exploited, and then deported-millions of Mexican workers, Senator Rubio's proposal would make the Unites States, a country many of us have lived in for most of our lives, take our labor, our talents and even our blood, while reserving the right to deport us at will.
Without citizenship, we would remain in a situation of less-than second-class citizenship, lacking the opportunity for full integration into our society.
For many years, we have seen the rise of opportunist politicians of both parties who take advantage of our pain and vulnerability as undocumented youth. We've watched as they play us as pawns in an electoral chess game. Viewed from this perspective, Rubio’s proposal is a further and very dangerous lowering of the bar of aspirations, one that will further erode our ability to obtain real change in the near future.
As anyone who knows Washington politics will tell you, it’s almost politically impossible to pass any pro-immigrant proposal in the current Tea Party-dominated House of Representatives. Senator Rubio knows this, but is still willing to force a vote that is doomed to failure. We fear that Rubio's gambit may damage, as a result, future negotiations around the real DREAM Act --a bipartisan one one that includes citizenship.
Senator Rubio may proclaim his proposal as a “workable compromise” on the issue, but Latinos will not be fooled. We've been down the treacherous road of the 20th century Bracero Program and its cousin “Operation Wetback” before. We know when politicians craft legislation that treats immigrants as if they where disposable. It’s a very simple equation, give us your work, your brains, your blood--and then 'hasta la vista,' go home.
It's bad enough that Republicans and Democrats continue, and even expand, funding for failed immigration enforcement programs. The larger war on immigrants launched after 9/11 has only escalated attacks against our community.
Senator Rubio's bill will make DREAMers even more vulnerable to an oppressive system that has depended historically on a non-reciprocal relationship. Rubio’s proposal has a toxic mantra:
We give, they take.
Yet, the state of Florida has benefited tremendously thanks to the U.S. citizenship granted to Cuban Americans. Imagine if the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy that granted the Cuban community a pathway to citizenship was never implemented. US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen would not be the powerful chair of the committee on Foreign Affairs; Rubio's predecessor, Mel Martínez, would never have been elected Senator; Knowing the benefits of citizenship in his community and in his own immigrant family, how can Senator Rubio live with himself after telling the media that he opposes the original DREAM Act because it would, in his words, “lead to chain migration.”
For someone who is a self-proclaimed “pro-entrepreneurship” advocate Senator Rubio is killing our ability to fully serve our community to our full capacity. Interestingly, his Tea Party supporters are inspired by a movement that called for the end of “taxation without representation.” More than 200 years later, Tea Party-backed Senator Rubio is about to introduce a bill that would keep us from ever voting in our political system, thereby instituting the same system what our founding fathers fought against.
Regardless of all this, you will continue to see our faces and you will hear us chanting in immigrant rights marches. We are here and we won’t stop until our community sees real justice and gets real DREAMs. The price DREAMers and the Latino community will pay for Senator Rubio’s political games is too high for us to simply stand by watch idly. We won’t give up our right to be seen as full human beings in this country so easily.
Felipe Matos was born in Brazil and he has been active in the immigrant rights movement for several years particularly around youth organizing. He has walked from Miami to Washington, DC on the Trail of DREAMs and now he is an online advocate for Presente Action.
Myrna Orozco came to the United States when she was 2 years old from Mexico. She was one of the young people arrested in a civil disobedience action in Senator McCain's office in 2010 for the passage of the DREAM Act.