Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Deportee I am, should I DREAM?

Geetisha Dasgupta
[Binghamton University]

Along the bundles of international borders that surround us, a wave of fear is ceaselessly circulated. It is called the fear of deportation. Not all people are able to remain in their own countries. Not all people that migrate have papers that prove their credentials to check posts. Not all papers are equal.

Every year a few hundred thousand people of South American origin are deported from the United States of America. Of them, many are children, termed in the immigration registers as alien minors. Needless to mention, to steer clear of being deported, countless numbers stay in anonymity, change their addresses several times over, and most dangerously, live inside the territory of the USA without any substantial social security papers, which means not having access to any security, health, education and financial services.

In 2001 a legislative proposal was introduced in the US Senate in order to address the issue of so called illegal minor aliens kept away from the basic provisions of life required for attaining adulthood; and not getting absorbed into the allies of darkness that underline the colour boundaries within the territory of a country. This proposal is called the DREAM Act. DREAM is the acronym for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors. This bill would provide conditional permanent residency to certain illegal alien students who graduate from US high schools, who are of good moral character, arrived in the U.S. legally or illegally as minors, and have been in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill's enactment. If they were to complete two years in the military or two years at a four year institution of higher learning, the students would obtain temporary residency for a six year period.

Questions do arise from the way the proposal has been defined. But what becomes most interesting is that, the proposal has been revived again in 2011 after being repeatedly silenced for a decade. This needs to be contextualized, and the big economic crisis becomes the necessary pinch of salt. Under pressure to find out ways of augmenting the state revenue the illegal now look like a resource hitherto untapped by taxation. In a December 2010 report, the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that the November 30th, 2010 version of the DREAM act would "reduce deficits by about $1.4 billion over the 2011-2020 period and increase government revenues by $2.3 billion over the next 10 years." The same report, however, stresses that the Act '"would increase projected deficits by more than $5 billion in at least one of the four consecutive 10-year periods starting in 2021.”

Potential deportees were hopeful till the Act was defeated in the Senate in December 2010. Several felt that their dreams have been upended. In an interview to the New York Times, Isabel Castillo says, “At least now, I can mention my full name to a reporter and not ask her to pardon my anonymity…I can afford to publish a full frontal photograph and not plead to be photographed only from a certain angle that does not reveal my identity….” She has stood face to face with several Virginia politicians who want to see an immigration crackdown and told them her status, and yet no one has turned her in. Indeed, they’ve been respectful and friendly. Last summer, at a town-hall-style meeting, she had a long exchange with the governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, and a Republican pushing for tougher deportation policies. In January 2011, she testified before a House of Delegates subcommittee full of legislators who wanted to expand police power to round up illegal immigrants. Castillo was brought to Virginia at the age of six years and then went on to attend college. She says she cried when the motion was defeated. She graduated with very high grades, yet must work as a waitress because the absence of social security papers disallow her from applying to jobs that she thinks herself better suited for. She, like thousands of her comrades, keeps pushing the envelope, trying to bring about a big change by stringing together small twists and turns and can be possible every day.

She has reason to be hopeful again: the act has been reintroduced in May 2011.
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