Immigration commentary was off base

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To the editor:

What happens to a dream deferred or to a society where dreams are ground into dust?  

Sanford Horn described the DREAM Act as a nightmare (The Dream Act is a nightmare, September 30, 2010). Before I share my own view, I would like to correct some inaccuracies.

The DREAM Act would apply to young people who overstayed their immigration authorization or entered without authorization between birth and age 15 and who meet its other requirements. Mr. Horn stated that laws passage would give eligible individuals a reward for their criminal behavior. An infant or young child is neither morally nor legally responsible for his decision to enter or remain in the United Sates without authorization. Furthermore, although violating immigration status is unlawful, it is a violation of civil law, not criminal law an important legal distinction.  

Thus any benefit gained by eligible young people cannot accurately be characterized as did Mr. Horn as a reward for criminal behavior because they have committed no crime. It is, instead, a reward for completing high school, showing good moral character and completing a minimum of two years in the military or in college, without relying on federal financial aid. 

In addition to rewarding eligible young adults for responsible and productive behavior, the DREAM Act will benefit our community and country as a whole. As beneficiaries emerge from the shadows, reach their full potential and pay taxes, it will strengthen our educational institutions and military, improve public safety, boost our economy and increase our national security 

And what is the alternative? To tell our young people that they should work illegally or God forbid, become car thieves or prostitutes? As a resident of Alexandria concerned about our community, I know which makes more sense to me. 

I am a former teacher who has taught in a range of settings including Hammond Middle School, and the United States Naval Academy.  I am proud to have taught idealistic and honorable young people who strive to do their best for themselves and for this country. While some of us born here may take our freedoms for granted,  there are those who value Americas freedoms so deeply that they would be willing, if necessary, to die to protect them.   

I value those freedoms as well. I am now a practicing attorney, and Ive sworn to protect the Constitution. The Constitution requires we provide public elementary and secondary education to children regardless of their status. It is illogical, immoral, and irresponsible to squander the skills and hard work we badly need from these young people, many of whom recall no home outside the United States.

Our nation cannot afford to waste the potential of individuals like Eric Balderas, the 19-year-old Texas student who has lived in the U.S. since he was 4 years old. He was studying molecular biology at Harvard only to be placed in deportation proceedings. Passage of the DREAM Act will help establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty for our posterity. Sounds like a dream our founders could get behind.

– Toni Maschler

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