Giving Students the Chance to DREAM
The following post is the text of a speech that was presented on Monday to Sen. Dianne Feinstein by Madison Tully and Haily Marzullo. Both are members of Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles, Calif., who attended the RAC's Bernard and Audre Rapoport L'Taken Social Justice Seminar last weekend.
In my public high school, approximately one third of the student body continues their education through college. I had a friend named Patricia who was passionate about her education, and wished to continue her studies in college. As she prepared to fill out her applications, she realized that one of the questions asked for her social security number. When she approached her parents asking for this information, she was told that she had no number and then found out that as a child her parents had immigrated to our country illegally. Disappointed and confused, Patricia stopped writing her applications and began to wonder about what her future would hold. She was unable to go to any college, to work, and even to go to the military.
My friend is not the only American teenager to be faced with this dilemma. Many teens whose parents made the decision to move to the United States as undocumented immigrants are seeing this as a terrible obstacle in their life. The DREAM Act would give kids like my friend the opportunity to continue their life with as little interruption as possible. It allows students who have lived in this country as exemplary citizens for at least five years to continue to live their life as Americans, but to be able to really contribute to our country. It creates for them a path to better education, and a way to obtain citizenship. I know that my friend would benefit from this Act, and that it will help many teens who are unable to fight for themselves.
As a member of the Jewish community, I believe that every stranger should be welcomed with open arms and trust. The DREAM Act saves teenagers who would otherwise be treated as strangers even though they are in a place they have always considered to be their home. As is said in the book of Leviticus, " The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you." I interpret this to my modern life and to this particular issue to mean that the United States should accept the teenage immigrants that live among us as rightful citizens to this great country.
As a Jew, I am aware of the persecution one can experience during their life, and I can understand by learning through Torah how hard it may be to be accepted in a land where you are deemed to be an alien. In Exodus it is said that, "you shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him." As of right now, we are both mistreating and oppressing those teens who are here not of their own accord and who without our help are struggling in their adopted homeland.
By approving the DREAM Act, we will be able to assist these minors who have immigrated to our country and welcome them into our culture just as the Torah tells us we should. This act makes it possible for teens just like myself to create a future for themselves where they can feel safe and accepted by their community. From a Jewish standpoint on life, I feel very sympathetic to those people who are being excluded by a place that is supposed to be the melting pot of our world. I remember the heart of the stranger, as I have been commanded to do by my God, and I welcome these teens with arms wide open.
As an American, I understand what it is like to come to a place where I wish to be welcomed and loved for my individuality. America has historically been a place of acceptance and truth, and I am proud to be a citizen here. But recently this issue about immigration and learning about the poor teens who have been excluded from the community for fear of deportation to a country they do not know has raised to my awareness that we have lost this admission of originality. Emma Lazarus once wrote, "Give me... the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send... the homeless, tempest-tost to me." These brief but powerful words, engraved at the base of our great statue of Lady Liberty that stands to welcome those immigrants from across the sea, have lost most of their meaning in today's society. We were once a safe haven to those experiencing terror in their homelands and looking for a place to restart their lives, but in our recent years we have shut our doors to the "huddled masses" and excused this selfish act with our own fears of the unknown. We can no longer punish those teens who seek an American education and security in our country. We must change our ways and learn once more to greet those looking for a better life, and with the DREAM Act we can begin again to teach this standard American value. I am an American citizen, and I would like to share that privilege and all of the opportunities that come with that privilege with the immigrants our country has taken under its wing over the many years.
I would like to thank Senator Feinstein for her work on this bill. I hope that she maintains this position, and that she will continue to strive to help the undocumented teenagers currently residing in the United States. I ask that she urge her fellow Members of Congress to support the DREAM Act as well. I am very grateful for her work as a co-sponsor on this bill, and I hope you will let her know that with each negative outlook on this issue comes a positive and thankful one.