Rudy Molinet
Saturday, March 10, 2012
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Our government should deport criminals, not innocent valedictorians

Daniela Pelaez is an all-American young woman. She is intelligent, caring and patriotic. She has achieved amazing success in high school, earning a 6.7 GPA while graduating at the top of her class at North Miami High School. Daniela is a model student who wants to study at an Ivy League school to become a doctor.

However, for this young woman, none of this matters, because Daniela will most likely be deported by our own government. We are deporting valedictorians while keeping criminals. Something is terribly wrong with our value system if this is what we allow our government to do.

Daniela committed no crime. Her parents came to this country in pursuit of the American Dream and overstayed their visa. She was only 4 years old. She has grown up for the past 14 years as an American, and now her immigration status will most likely send her back to Colombia, a country she does not know and a culture she only understands through the eyes of her parents.

Voltaire said that "common sense is not so common" and this situation personifies the absurdity of our immigration laws and the lack of a common sense approach to the challenges of immigration.

Our nation has been defined by the contributions of immigrants. Most likely, your family descended from immigrants, or you may be an immigrant yourself. What would America be today without the contributions of the generations of immigrants who have landed on our shores? The Statue of Liberty stands proudly in New York Harbor reminding the world that in America, it matters not where you are from, or what language you speak or whom you happen to love, what we reward in America is hard work, compassion and patriotism.

Our nation's immigration issues are complex. Most people understand that we must control the flow of immigrants to our nation's shores. There are practical issues of infrastructure, jobs, schools and sustainability. We must deal with the flow of undocumented immigrants who desperately cross rivers or come to our shores in makeshift rafts in search of the American Dream that we so often take for granted. Even the most liberal person will understand that we can't have a free-for-all immigration strategy. On the other hand, we cannot become a nation that has a giant STOP sign to the world. After all, immigration has been our strength since the founding of our nation, not our weakness.

How do we marshal our energies and deal with this issue? One solution is the DREAM Act. This legislation, originally championed by both Democrats and Republicans, has languished in the halls of Congress due to Republican-led filibusters in the Senate. The vote has been close. In 2010 the measure failed by only five votes in the Senate. President Barack Obama supports it; Mitt Romney says he will veto it. We must insist that our leaders support the DREAM Act. Let's vote for a president, senators and representatives who will support this balanced approach to our immigration challenges.

The DREAM Act would help address the exact situation that Daniela is facing. The law would allow people who were brought to this country as minors without proper documentation to find a path toward citizenship.

This would happen by attending and graduating college or by serving in our nation's armed forces for a period of time, being of good moral character, and other qualifications.

The majority of Americans -- 66 percent -- support the DREAM Act, and if the support from her fellow students is any indication, Daniela may be able to stay in America after all. She was granted a two-year reprieve by the Department of Homeland Security.

Perhaps we can double our efforts to influence the passage of this important piece of legislation so that Daniela won't be deported, and she can pursue her version of the American Dream.

Our national motto is e pluribus unum -- out of many, one. This speaks loudly to me and says that our national ethos is one of inclusion, not exclusion. What defines us as Americans, as the greatest nation on earth, is the strength of our diversity, not the narrowness of our prejudices.

As old prejudices faded from our nation, we grew stronger. When women earned the right to vote and became more involved in our halls of government, we became a more compassionate people; when African-Americans were recognized as full persons, not just three-fifths of a person, our nation prospered; when gays and lesbians were allowed to serve openly in our nation's military, we showed the world that our diversity is our strength, not our weakness.

Now, on this final frontier of immigration, we can rise again to our values, showing the world that in America, if you work hard in school and at your job, we will not throw you away.

Rather we will embrace you, support you along your journey to becoming Dr. Daniela Pelaez, healer of people, proud American, and a valued member of this great country we call America the beautiful.

Rudy Molinet is a real estate broker, co-owner of Marquis Properties Realty in Key West and a community and human rights activist. He lives in Old Town with Harry Hoehn, his spouse of 19 years. Contact him at rudy@rudymolinet.com.