Dream. Act. Now.

As Americans, we all know that the difference between a dream and reality can be a fine, blurring line. The beacon that has drawn immigrants from around the world to America has been — that through our liberties and opportunities — everyone can realistically hope to transform their own existence and rise up from their reality to reach for the dream of a better life for themselves and their family.

Great stuff. It’s America’s most enduring product, for both internal consumption and for exportation: Hope.

So why curb the supply when there is so much demand in the world? I can understand that many opponents to increased legal immigration fear potential negative impacts on our nation, whether those be cultural or economic. But even thinking conservatively, why oppose strategic immigration policy that keeps the dream alive and channels well-intentioned, talented, committed, productive people into the American mainstream? Why wait on comprehensive immigration reform, which is complex and will likely require a long-winded debate, to determine the fate of thousands of currently undocumented college students and graduates? Why delay action on The DREAM Act? Why keep good people like Benita Veliz waiting in the shadows for their chance to transform their lives and — in the process — maximize their contributions to America?

I first heard about Benita from a colleague at RedBrownandBlue. A college graduate with the dream of attending law school, Benita was the valedictorian of her Texas high school. Her story came to national attention when it was featured in the New York Times. Fascinated by the tale of this young, overachieving dreamer, I reached out to her. Benita explained to me how she was brought here as a young child and has not returned to Mexico since then. Raised as a Mexican-American, she first began to notice that she was different from most of her friends when they started getting drivers licenses and jobs at the mall. Without the proper documents, she was afraid to come forward and join them in those teenage rites of passage. In some way, perhaps it served her well. Instead of working part-time and cruising, she focused on school and graduated at the top of her class, earning a full scholarship to a private university.

Today, as a product of public schools, Benita says she yearns for the chance to “pay America back by being a productive, tax-paying citizen.” But today, as an undocumented immigrant, Benita is also in danger of being deported. What good would that do for America? What in the world would it do to Benita?

I asked myself, how bad would it be for a bilingual young Latina to be sent back to Mexico? She could surely go to school there, find a job, start a new life, couldn’t she? Many Americans like me have been fortunate to face choices like studying and working abroad. They are enriching experiences, but in the end we know we can always come home. If deported, Benita would not be able to do that. Her studies, her dreams, America’s own investment in her and her potential, would be squandered to prove a petty point. What point is that? That we are a nation of laws.

I agree that we are such a place, where the law should be respected. But I also believe that the law is made to serve mankind, not the other way around. Our Congress has the opportunity to pass a new law, The DREAM Act, to provide people like Benita an opportunity to legitimize their presence on American soil and get on the path to citizenship by contributing to our nation’s future prosperity and security.

I urge you to contact your elected officials to voice your support for The DREAM Act. About 65,000 students like Benita could be impacted positively by The DREAM Act each year. In exchange, they must go to school or serve in the military, proving themselves worthy of citizenship. It’s not a bad way to keep the dream alive. It’s actually a great way to affirm that – in America – we’re still at our best when we’re turning dreams into reality.

Resources for Action:

Ten Things You Can Do for the DREAM Act!

Find Your Elected Official and Send an Email of Support for the DREAM Act via Congress.org.

Learn more about the DREAM Act and Comprehensive Immigration Reform at MATT.org.

To help Benita specifically, send a letter to:

Michael Pitts
Field Office Director
U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement
8940 Fourwinds Drive
San Antonio TX 78239

In your letter to Mr. Pitts, you can ask ICE, Immigrations and Customs Enforcements, to consider “dropping removal proceedings” against Benita Veliz. Friends of Benita have also started a page on Facebook to marshal support.