I learned recently of the plight of Jonathan Chavez, an Honors College student at the University of Arkansas — who is currently missing all of his classes because Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have had him locked in a detention facility in Fort Lauderdale, Florida since Christmas. According to a story in the Arkansas Times he’d gone to visit his mother, but was caught in a round-up when he got off the bus.
Chavez was born in Peru, but brought to the U.S. at a young age by his parents, who apparently had only tourist visas but remained illegally in the country. One can certainly argue that they shouldn’t have done that, but it wasn’t Jonathan’s choice or his fault. The U.S. is the only real home he has known. He’s been very successful in his schoolwork, and could be a very productive, tax-paying citizen — if he had the chance. He’s maintained an amazing attitude while in detention, leading Bible studies with other detainees.
Legislation designed to help young people like Jonathan made it through the House of Representatives last year but the “Dream Act,” as it was called, was voted down by the Senate on Dec. 18.
As a result, children and youth who are undocumented, but who were brought to America by their parents and know no other home, are subject to being ripped from all that is familiar and sent to a country that is foreign to them, a country whose language they may not even speak.
That’s not right, fair, or just. Jonathan’s lawyer is trying to gain a deferral approved that would allow him to finish college, but no decision has been made. Unless legislators show some compassion and get something like the Dream Act back on the table and passed, thousands of innocents will be forcibly shipped into lands unknown to them, and America will be the poorer because of it.