Recently, two very bright young women graduated with honors from universities in the Greensboro, N.C., area. One received a degree in nursing, the other a degree in chemical engineering.
Both of these young women have talents and skills in high demand. These graduates are the kind of young adults that every community wants to attract and keep. Talented, disciplined and with a keen sense of civic responsibility, they would be a wonderful asset for Greensboro.
Unfortunately, neither of these talented women will be able to pursue their career in Greensboro. Even though there are several local employers who want to hire them, neither can work legally anywhere in the United States.
These young women were brought to the United States from Mexico when they were just preschoolers. They grew up here. This is home to them. Both had outstanding records at local high schools, and they would like nothing more than to contribute their considerable talents to our land.
Because they are undocumented immigrants, they cannot do so. These young women will be forced to leave the United States to work in other countries in order to fulfill their personal dreams.
The lame-duck session of Congress could finally do something to alleviate this injustice. Congress is due to consider the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. Each year, some 65,000 students who entered America illegally with their parents will graduate from high school. The DREAM Act would give these students a path to citizenship if they attend college or join the military.
There is sound biblical basis for asking you to support the DREAM Act. Leviticus teaches us: “When strangers sojourn with you in your land, you shall not do them wrong. The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:33-34).
We are a compassionate country! The idea that we would expel a child who has lived here since he or she was young because of the choices of their parents is nothing short of cruel. For all intents and purposes, this child is an American. It is nothing less than a horrific example of holding a child responsible for the sins of the parent.
In addition, we as a country would be deprived of the unique, God-given contributions that this child, a product of our educational system, would be able to give to our country.
These students often live in constant fear of detection by immigration authorities. It is now time for us as a country to give them hope. After all, their only “crime” was being born to parents who came to this country to pursue a better life for themselves and their children, just like many of our ancestors.
We see this as a compelling religious and a moral issue. Apparently others in Congress do as well, for the DREAM Act has solid bipartisan support.
As clergy dedicated to helping our country become more just and compassionate, we urge passage of the DREAM Act and call on those who read this to contact their elected representatives in support of this act.
The DREAM Act will go a long way toward making legitimate dreams come true for the young people it is designed to help.
Rabbi Fred Guttman is rabbi of Temple Emanuel in Greensboro, N.C., and Rev. Mark Sills is executive director of FaithAction International House in Greensboro. In 2009, they were co-recipients of the National Conference for Community and Justice Brotherhood Citation Award.