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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Senators Hutchinson, McCain Sup While Students Starve

This article originally appeared as Senators Hutchinson, McCain Sup While Students Starve

01 jessica olivasA generation of young people will likely get a vote on the Dream Act as a stand alone bill Wednesday, December 8th, 2010, a wish they have had for a long time. Unfortunately, after the GOP forced President Obama to extend tax benefits to millionaires, many Republican Senators are breaking their pledge to support the Dream Act vote.

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz) has been a towering mountain preventing the passage of the Dream Act and Don’t Act Don’t Tell. Activists are meeting an entirely different man than they did in 2007 when McCain was one of the chief supporters of the Dream Act.

McCain hugged Gabby Pacheco, a Dream Activist who works with autisitic children, during a 2007 meeting. He promised to support the cause of students who were brought to the US through no fault of their own.

"He said 'Don't worry, everything is going to be OK. I'm going to fight for this.' " Pacheco recalled McCain reassuring her.

Pacheco became a McCain fan, supporting him during his run for president. She sported McCain bumper stickers, put out McCain yard signs and she became a vocal advocate of the Viet Nam vet from Arizona.

"I talked about the legacy that he always had, which was to fight for justice, and that he was fighting for justice then as well."

Shortly before thanksgiving 2010, Pacheco approached McCain to speak to him about the Dream Act. She thought he would remember her since she had introduced him at a public meeting. McCain rebuffed her and told her to stay away from him or he would call the Capitol Police. As McCain was getting in an elevator, one of the students lamented they only wanted to serve the country in the military and needed his support.

Go serve them then!” McCain snarled as the elevator door closed. McCain clearly knows students of undocumented workers cannot serve in the military. Several students are camped outside of his office in Phoenix, Arizona, living 24/7 underneath a canopy, and calling themselves the “Dream Army”.   They have made the appeal to change the law so undocumented youth can serve the nation they have called home for nearly all of their lives.

A spokesperson for McCain, Brooke Buchanan, said McCain did not threaten to call the police or tell the students to “Go serve them then”.

With the statements diametrically opposed, which one is true? McCain is the person who broke his word of support of the Dream Act for the benefit of his personal and political gain. These could not have been the moral principles he used when he was tortured as a prisoner in Viet Nam.

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In addition to protests, the Arizona students are in their 8th day of a hunger strike.

Meanwhile, the situation is more dire in Texas. Two weeks ago, 15 students were arrested when they refused to leave Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s office (R-Tx). One of those students was My Le, an 18 year old freshman at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

"Everyone here is an immigrant, everyone's ancestors are immigrants," Le said.

Another protester who was arrested was Pastor Lorenza Andrade Smith, a US citizen and person of conscience.  Rev. Smith remains in jail pending the passage of the ACT.

Pastor Lorena Andrade Smith during Texas arrest

A significantly larger group of students supported those who volunteered for arrest, including Washington State activist, Jessica Olivas. The charismatic college student interned with Promise Arizona working to register Latinos for the vote. With her internship over, Olivas, a US citizen, used the skills she learned in helping others find leadership and voice their outrage. Olivas is an example of hundreds of second and third generation American immigrants who stand in solidarity with undocumented students in their quest for justice.

After being released from custody, the Arizona students were back protesting the next day. Other rallies have been scheduled throughout the nation, including Maine, Colorado, Arizona and California.. Over 100 Dream Act supporters have joined the Texas students in their hunger strike, according to Carlos Saavedra of United We Dream, a national coalition of groups in 25 states. Today was the 27th day for the Texas hunger strikers.

Saavedra indicated the Dream Students were not looking for amnesty. The Dream Act is narrow legislation applying to a very few students who came to the US as young children. If the students go to college or serve in the military, after passing stiff back ground checks, they could become permanent residents. Because of the lengthy requirements, the law is a long term proposition, not amnesty.

President Obama announced agreement with the Republicans to extend tax cuts for those who make a million dollars in net income. The extension will be for two years, timed with the presidential election. As students prepare for 28 days without food, as a generation of immigrant youth faces a future without hope, the wealthiest people in the nation rejoice at not paying taxes on their taxable incomes of a million dollars.

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