Latinos, Military and Citizenship

Recently Eva Paterson asked about the relationship between the civil rights and the war in Iraq. I began to think about the complex relationship between Latinos, Military and Citizenship.

Military recruiters target Latino neighborhoods and schools. This is essentially a poverty and race draft, and is definitely a civil rights issue. There are troubling reports of undocumented Latinos being tacitly promised a path to legal status by recruiters. While there is a way for legal residents who already have the means to naturalize to speed up the process, there is no current path to legal status for undocumented folks based solely on military service.

However, the proposed DREAM Act does provide such a path, along with a path to citizenship for undocumented students who attend college. In truth, it is a piece of legislation that does not have a ton of hope of passing as is, and would likely have none without the military portion. This has led many advocates to have mixed feelings about the legislation, but upon the urging of the constituency most effected (undocumented young folks) and weighing the balance of the good vs. the bad, most immigrant advocates are fully supporting the bill. This is because the situation is so desperate for the growing population of young undocumented immigrants in this country, who have lived in the US for the majority of their lives, YET HAVE NO WAY TO GAIN LEGAL STATUS. This leaves these young people with no hope of ever escaping their de jure second-class status. This DREAM Act would provide an opportunity for many of this group to gain legal status, in a way that may garner sufficient bipartisan support.

However, there are vocal portions of the Latino community that oppose the bill. I feel that this is a mistaken move, and one that results from not listening to the community of folks effected. While I share their reservations about a law that will effectively target one group for military service, I do not place these concerns over what is being said by the undocumented students. In fact, to my knowledge most of the advocacy organizations and all the student organizations that specifically work on undocumented student issues support the DREAM Act.

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