Thursday, July 02, 2009

Dream an Equal Education

Everyone has the right to education. Education should be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations...” - Article 26, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

As a non-violent, faith-based organization, AFSC reiterates grave concern with the inclusion of military service in the proposed Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) and the exclusion of community service as viable alternative for youth to consider. AFSC has long been an active faith-based voice on issues of race, gender, disability, religion, national origin or legal status. AFSC supports equal access to educational opportunities that augment workforce skills and the nation's future viability.

Civic Engagement Benefits the Common Good

AFSC calls for the inclusion of a community service and volunteerism component to the DREAM Act. Communities throughout the nation are challenged by economic crises and other critical issues such as a shortage in teachers for classrooms, the elimination of basic services and reduced operating budgets. The DREAM Act could provide a viable opportunity for volunteerism and innovative civic engagement opportunity that helps strengthen and sustain rural and urban neighborhoods.

Recent calls by local and national leaders have encouraged young people to become engaged and active participants in community service endeavors. Indeed, the recent passage of the Serve America Act offers a remarkable opportunity to engage all youth. Re-incorporating a community service component to the DREAM Act lends itself to this reality and to participation in local or national civic service that build neighborhoods, support families, and create a strong national human infrastructure. This can be an innovative alternative which fosters goodwill, positive self-esteem and a sense that one is part of a broader community effort!

What AFSC Supports: Education is a Basic Human Right

  • AFSC supports the provisions in the DREAM Act that provide a path to permanent residency to undocumented immigrant students and lifts penalties on states that provide undocumented immigrant students with in-state tuition. AFSC does not support policy or legislation inviting immigrant students – or any student – to join the armed forces. AFSC vehemently rejects a military service component which serves as a de facto military draft for undocumented youth.
  • We believe that immigrant youth should be able to qualify for the benefits of the DREAM Act (instate tuition, a path to permanent residency, and eventual citizenship if they so desire) by performing community volunteerism that encourages community service as a career choice and volunteerism as a starting point for future and ongoing civic participation.
  • The 2009 Serve America Act could be an important path for immigrant youth to contribute to the nation's human infrastructure, and in turn, an opportunity for future generations to be equal participants in the betterment of the nation.

Education is a human right and yet immigrant students in the nation’s academic learning system confront systemic, structural and institutional barriers that impact their academic achievement and their ability to attend institutions of higher learning. Social, class, race, ethnicity and disability are several of these key issues and underlying inequalities. Studies have shown that for every immigrant student who attends a two or four year college, twenty will not be able to do so.

AFSC deplores the use of a poverty draft and its inclusion in all legislation that addresses the ability of immigrant youth to receive equal educational access. It is also highly probable that immigrant youth may be lured into enlisting in the US military with the notion that they only have to serve two years in the military. The DREAM Act currently specifies two years as the minimum amount of time needed to be eligible for legal permanent resident status, but the bill does not articulate that everyone who enlists in the military is obligated to serve eight years.[1]

Dream to Serve: Make Service Opportunities Available to All Youth

Given the intention of Congress to use the DREAM Act to increase military recruitment numbers, the potential for abuse and misuse of the law in order to fraudulently recruit undocumented immigrant youth is of grave concern. Recent studies show how important information is omitted, misleading information is providedand how potential recruits are deceived in order to convince them to sign the enlistment agreement.

Senator Richard (Dick) Durbin, the key sponsor of the bill, has noted, "...[T]he DREAM Act creates a strong incentive for military service. And many DREAM Act kids come from a demographic group that is already predisposed towards military service." A 2004 survey by the Rand Corporation found that 45 percent of Hispanic males and 31 percent of Hispanic females between ages 16 and 21 were very likely to serve in the Armed Forces, compared to 24 percent of White men and 10 percent of White women.”[2] Furthermore, Lt. Colonel Margaret Stock of the U.S. Army Reserve and a participant in the drafting of the bill has observed, “The DREAM Act promises to enlarge dramatically the pool of highly qualified recruits for the U.S. Armed Forces." [3]

The option of community and national service and restoring provisions for federal grant eligibility (including Pell Grants) benefit the nation while providing motivated immigrant youth a viable alternative for civic participation. This is also a way through which youth can live out their values, physical and spiritual energy, and contribute to the nation's greater good. This is especially important at a time when the nation’s executive and legislative leaders have called for public engagement by affirming and supporting the 2009 Serve America Act.

Bridging the Serve America Act with the DREAM Act is a mutually beneficial and more comprehensive way to ensure that immigrant youth can serve the nation without having to do so by serving in the armed forces.


For information on the Serve America Act of 2009 go to: http://www/

[1] Armed Forces of the United States, Enlistment/Reenlistment Document, Section C.10.a. available at
[2] Senator Dick Durbin, Floor Statement: DREAM Act as an Amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill, July 13, 2007.
[3] Margaret D. Stock, “The DREAM Act: Tapping an Overlooked Pool of Homegrown Talent to Meet Military Enlistment Needs,” Bender’s Immigration Bulletin, January 15, 2006.