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Why I have joined the DREAM Act Hunger Strike

Posted by Brent Wilkes on 12/02/2010 @ 10:10 PM

Brent Wilkes

Brent Wilkes, LULAC National Executive Director

For three weeks students in Texas have been on a hunger strike to press Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison to support the DREAM Act. The strike has now grown to 50 people from 4 different states. I have been deeply moved by the inspiration, courage, tenacity and sacrifice that these students have shown and I have decided to join their hunger strike until Congress passes the DREAM Act.

While the DREAM Act was first introduced 10 years ago, the ideals it represents harken back to the founding of our nation. Ever since Columbus set foot in this hemisphere, people from all over the world have been coming to America in hopes for a better opportunity for themselves and their families.

It is deeply troubling to me, that the decedents of those immigrants, including myself, have allowed our immigration laws to become so broken and unfair that the vast majority of our ancestors never would have been able to come here if today’s rules had been applied to them.

What makes the DREAM Act students’ case particularly compelling is that they were brought to this country by their parents. No reasonable person would blame them or insist they be punished for the manner in which they have arrived to our country.

What a reasonable nation should do is look at the manner in which the Dream students have conducted themselves once here, in the United States and that is where the DREAM Act students really shine. In order to be eligible for the proposed program, the DREAM Act students must have done well in their studies, graduated from high school, and be prepared to go to college or enter military service.

In short, these students have done very well despite all the obstacles they have faced growing up and now they are ready to give back to the United States…if Congress would only let them.

I was there at the LULAC National Legislative Gala on February 11, 2009 when Senator Hutchison accepted the LULAC National Legislative Award. I heard her state quite clearly that she supported the DREAM Act because it was the right thing to do.

Senator Hutchison, it still is the right thing to do. You and your Republican colleagues have a chance to show that the Republican Party does have compassion by doing the right thing, passing the DREAM Act, and giving these students a chance. Anything less is simply being mean-spirited and un-American.

I believe that the United States is a better country than one that would punish students because of their parent’s mistakes. I believe the vast majority of Americans still cherish the ideals of our founding fathers—that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are God-given unalienable rights to be honored and preserved. I believe the United States Congress should pass the DREAM Act now and I stand in solidarity with those brave students who have shown us, by their actions, how to stand up for the principals one believes in.

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Bringing Change Home

Posted by Jorge Mursuli, President and CEO Democracia-Ahora on 11/25/2009 @ 03:54 PM

Jorge Mursuli

Jorge Mursuli, President and CEO Democracia-Ahora

In 2008, Latinos came out to vote as we’ve never voted before. Retrospectively, pundits and analysts mused over how it had all happened. Was it immigration? Culturally competent messengers? Increased resources? For those of us on the ground the answer was apparent: all of the above.

But there was something else, something that was bigger than any candidate or any issue, and that was our community’s desire for change. The bill that is in front of the Senate today is a much-needed starting point towards that change. It addresses our communities’ concerns around health disparities, inclusivity, and discrimination.

Now it’s up to us, the same voters who ushered in change, to make sure that this bill is improved so as to ensure the protection and inclusion of all members of our families.

It’s no surprise to anyone who works and lives in our communities that we as Latinos represent the highest percentage of uninsured. This means that we have the most to gain from the Senate’s health care bill. Paradoxically, it means we also have the most to lose if it does not pass and if certain issues are not addressed.

For example, when we talk about affordability – which is the ultimate barrier to health care access – it’s clear that a public option is a necessary means towards that end both in terms of offering increased choice and inspiring competition.

Further, it is time to move from an illness-based system of care to a preventative one. For our community in particular, that means promoting culturally and linguistically competent prevention and health care services, and recruiting more minorities into health professions. While many good doctors can provide diagnosis and care, it sometimes takes an enhanced level of cultural understanding to explain to immigrant mothers and fathers how best to care for their newborns and other loved ones.

In the next few weeks, our community will need to step up and continue our role as agents of change. Let’s encourage our Members of Congress to ensure that health reform is inclusive of our community’s unique needs, that it covers as many uninsured as possible and improves coverage for those who already have it.

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