They are no longer “Dreamers” only, they are full-fledged Americans

header-hoover-institution-fellows1-1By Alex Gonzalez

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The Defense Department ordered the Army to begin accepting young immigrants who qualify for DACA into the program last year. But some GOPers are trying to derail that effort. The Republican-led House on Thursday narrowly defeated an attempt to bar young immigrants living in the country illegally to enlist in the armed forces. And some “conservative” politicians think that Dreamers are still not American enough to join the military. But Dreamers, from their mastery of English Language, to their adherence to civic American culture learned here in America, are already full-fledged Americans.

Let’s start with the premise that culture is a learned behavior; and the American identity, or American-ness, is set of political civic values we all learn growing up and learning English, at least for those who grew and attended school here; and that is the common channel by which this civic American-ness becomes part of who we are as Americans.

As a result, the Pentagon has argued, Dreamers who qualify for DACA,  as a qualifier for young immigrants are in fact perfect candidates to join the Military .

 Likewise, two of so-called Dreamers in Texas  Two high school valedictorians, one in Austin and the other in McKinney Texas have attracted national attention after identifying themselves as undocumented. Not these Dreamers have accumulated a 4.5 GPA, but they also have both been accepted to Yale and UT Austin due to their hard work.

But unwarranted attacks on these Dreamers and opposition to Dreamers are pure political attacks that have nothing to with the American Spirit and Meritocracy and more with pandering to anti-Immigrants Trump crowds that do not want to see successful Dreamers be able to use their skills to excel in America; to them, it does not matter if these are 4.5 GPA students with mastery of English, or young people wanting to join the military to protect the U.S. Constitution and the nation.

Southern conservative politicians Reps. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.)  and commentators often remind us that we are losing our national character due to the large Hispanic immigrants who settled in the southwest. They like to point out that these Latinos “foreigners”  speak no English and as a result are diluting our national character.  To these critics,  English is the main pillar of American identity,  and I could not agree more with them.

Anyone wishing to be part of this great nation and acquire citizenship should master the English language.  So conservatives ought to welcome into military those Dreamers who qualify for DACA since most of them have the mastery of the English language, some speak no other language. Because these Dreamers grew up in America, their identity, and therefore their hearts, are already American.

But the House on Thursday narrowly voted down on efforts by to strip out language in a must-pass defense authorization bill that would have encouraged the Pentagon to study whether young undocumented immigrants, “Dreamers,” should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military. This study is apt because these “Dreamers” already have what we understand to be American values and “American-ness.”

What are American Values?

American values, therefore, are a byproduct of nurture not nature.  Today, a child becomes an American through interaction with other peers who are exposed to American flags in parades, conversation with parents about what it means to be an American, and mandatory elementary schooling.  When people are born, they are not asked where they would like to be born.  Nature and circumstances dictate this event. For example, at the time of birth, a baby in Sweden, Ireland, or Spain has as much understanding of American values, or American identity, as any baby born in the U.S. The acknowledgment or American-ness is a gradual process that birth alone cannot guarantee. 

Yet being an American is not simply a natural act of “being born” in this country. There is a unique psychological process that many undergo to become Americans. This Human Revolution to become American, is unlike any other in the world, but it is consistent and through time creates the individual as a Proud American. This nationalistic, uncontrollable, process of becoming a proud American is open to all those born in the U.S. and those who were born abroad but came here at early age.

UTAustin_logoSimilarly, according to Samuel Huntington, national identities are constructed by ideology promoted by the state. People develop their identity “under varying degrees of pressure, inducement and freedom, and identities are imagined selves, which can later be used to build a national character by putting many individuals together under pressure (war) to create a bond. Dreamers already “imagine” themselves as Americans and have developed an emotional attachment to America.  Therefore, under any conservative political theory of loyalist, or patriotism, these Dreamers that now will be able to stand tall,  unafraid, and out of the shadows.

Furthermore, according to Huntington, wars make a nation and nationalism. People develop their sense of national identity as they fight to differentiate themselves from other people. In order to promote a national consciousness, in 17th century, Kings began to use the word “nation” to rally the “people” against other nations. For example, the British identity was a byproduct of the war against France, and continental Catholicism. The lumping together of the English, Scotts, and Wales consequently caused the residents of the British Isles to define themselves collectively as the British against the powerful Catholic France. Similarly, the American colonies developed their own ideological and real enemies. Among one of the single most important factors that developed American identity, or creed, Huntington argues, was the coming together of various British settler sects during the war against the Indians and British soldiers; “the American image of an English enemy was the first ideological enemy image in modern history.” Similarly, after the Indian War of 1675-76 in New England English settlers never trusted the Indians again with trade or land, and instead, drew psychological  and physical boundaries between “white” settlers and Indians. By fighting together against the Indians the “Puritan English colonists became Americans”.

The children of pre-1914 Immigrants filled American armies in WW II, and the needs of the war efforts dictated that America be portrayed for what it was, a truly multiethnic society. Your ordinary and typical war movie often featured an Italian, a Jew, an Irishman, a Polish man, and other old American types from the far west, and hills of Tennessee. And this motif was not confined to Hollywood but also used in military propaganda when they showed black and white reels depicting many ethnic groups fighting Nazism. The lumping of various backgrounds in addition to the ethnic names used, gave the impression that those who died together, could live together. Huntington argued that American identity was a product of multiethnic society that dates from and, in some measure, was a product of WW II.

Allowing those who qualify for DACA and join the military will require that, those who came here at young age, and who may not know any other nation or language, engage in this bonding tradition that developed our strong nation identity as Americans. This bill,in essence, promotes a rekindling once more of our national “fighting spirit”, and which will bring young Hispanics closer to a full integration to our national creed and to a mainstream American identity.

If Huntington is right, people can aspire to an identity but not be able to achieve it unless they are welcome by the those who already have that identity. Dreamers already have an American identity, and their participation in the military will strengthen their fighting spirit and identity as Americans. As a result, we should welcome them into our United States Armed Forces. Sure some detractors argue that they will become Democrats, and that may the real reason why the oppose the bill. But that is political noise to stir political opposition among centrist Republicans who do support the bill.

With this new in the Defense Bill, Dreamers  who came here at young age, and who may not know any other nation or language, will engage in even deeper  bonding to the US and that develop a stronger nation identity as Americans. Thus, The Defense Bill to allow Deferred Action applicants to join the military, will bring young Hispanic Dreamer closer to a full integration to our national creed and to a mainstream American identity. If Huntington is right, people can aspire to an identity but not be able to achieve it unless they are welcome by those who already have that identity. Dreamers already have an American identity, but they also need to be welcomed.

Furthermore, conservative politicians should acknowledge, the “sins of the fathers” are not the sins of the Dreamers, the same way that the “original sins” of our Founding Fathers are no longer our sins, slavery. Therefore, we feel morally freed from any past guilt. Our conservative individualistic values, or personal accountability, have liberated us from any past sins, because, under conservatism, each individual ought to judge and be held accountable for their own acts and personal character. This is why we should set the Dreamers free of any past fault by the parents and let them be free Americans.  This is the same principle that built our great nation.

meAlex Gonzalez is a political Analyst and Political Director for Latinos Ready To Vote. Comments to or @AlexGonzTXCA


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