Elizabeth Warren Part Cherokee

U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts and Harvard Professor who grew up in Oklahoma, is part Cherokee.  Her great, great, great grandmother was Cherokee, making Warren 1/32 Cherokee.  She has taken some heat for listing herself as part Cherokee and there is some speculation that her “minority” status helped her gain teaching positions, that she has been the beneficiary of affirmative action programs.  I say good for her.  Diversity is a good thing.  All students who attend colleges and universities with a diverse student population benefit.  And is not true that kids from underrepresented ethnic or racial groups could not get in otherwise.  In fact, many of the kids might have gotten in if their race were not known on merit alone.  In some cases, without affirmative action, they might be passed over, even though they meet all the qualifications.

But diversity should be about more than just skin color, which is superficial – we all look the same under a microscope.  I think college and universities need to expand their notion of diversity to include ideological and class diversity.  Diversity of thought is important.  Ever read those college guides that depict a school as a leftist haven, or a squeaky clean young republican resort?  And there’s the school where everybody smokes and the one where everyone drives a SUV with a ski rack and looks straight out of a designer catalog.  And the one where all the students hold hands and pray before lunch.  Let’s not forget the Birkenstock wearing atheists at the school with no degree requirements.  These of
course are caricatures and don’t necessarily reflect the reality at these schools, but perception is important and it’s partly true, especially of smaller liberal arts schools, that the student body is alarmingly homogenous on a number of diversity measures.  A kid from a working class background might not even consider the “preppy” school even though it may be a good academic fit.  The point is, without diversity, students have a very limiting and narrow experience and will not learn how to interact, work and live with people who are not like them, which I argue has led to partisan gridlock in the U.S.

Elizabeth Warren, a former Oklahoma high school debate champion and noted scholar has brought some ideological diversity to Harvard Law School and draws from her distant roots as a Cherokee and her middle class upbringing.  And that’s good for Harvard, good for the state of Massachusetts and the country.

The Doomed Dream Act

I’m disappointed in the 5 Dems who voted against the Dream Act, which would give children of undocumented immigrants who were born in this country, or had arrived at a young age, who had been educated here, the opportunity to get a temporary green card if they join the military, or complete 2 years of college.  As is, there are many bright high school graduates who can neither serve in the military nor go to college through no fault of their own.  Had these Democrats (can they even be called Democrats?) voted in favor, the bill would have had the 60 votes needed to defeat the Republican filibuster and would have come to the floor for a final vote, where it most likely would have passed, like it did a few weeks ago in the House.

So who are these disappointing Dems? Pryor from Arkansas, Nelson from Nebraska, Baucus and Tester of Montana and Hagan from North Carolina.

Why would these senators vote against it?  Do the folks of Montana fear that droves of undocumented immigrants would relocate to the “Gold and Silver” state and plunder its natural resources?  Do they fear diversity?  Do Arkansans really feel threatened by immigrants who might become more educated and contribute to a vibrant Arkansas economy as managers, planners and engineers were the Dream Act passed?  Do the folks of North Carolina fear that immigrants might rise and demand that their needs be addressed, that they might vote some of their own into office?

Do people fear an educated immigrant class?  This would be at odds with higher education systems at the state level throughout the nation that have made diversity a priority, and I would think would welcome a talented pool of non-white candidates the Dream Act would certainly deliver.  The University of Nebraska has a diversity statement on its website that reads:  “Nebraska is committed to recruiting and retaining a diverse student body.”  It’s state motto is “equality before the law”. Both the flagship campuses of the University of Arkansas and the University of North Carolina continue to embrace diversity.

The senators no doubt have argued that the Dream Act amounts to a blanket amnesty, referring to a provision that allows children of undocumented parents to eventually legalize if they meet certain qualifications, and take a place at the back of the line for a path to citizenship.  Blanket, means unconditional, and the Dream Act is anything but.  There are very strict requirements.  Only children who entered the country under the age of 16 and have lived here for 5 consecutive years or more of good moral character with a clean criminal record who have been admitted to an institution of higher education, or have a GED or high school diploma from a U.S. school would qualify.  Furthermore, they must eventually complete at least 2 years of college in good standing and or serve in the U.S. military for 2 years to even qualify for permanent residence.   THIS IS NOT A BLANKET AMNESTY!

To Alabama Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions who has led the charge against the Dream Act because it encourages the breaking of the law, I would say that our country was founded on the principles of justice and the idea that all men (and women) are endowed with unalienable rights that among them are the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.  One of the main justifications for the Revolutionary War was the injustice of taxation without representation.  This is exactly the injustice that many undocumented immigrants face.  Contrary to popular notions, they do pay taxes – sales, property, excise and many actually pay income taxes, not with a social security number, but with a tax identification number issued them by the IRS.

The Dream Act won’t go away, nor will immigration reform.  One day in the not so distant future as the country continues to become more diverse, children of undocumented immigrants will have the opportunity to realize their potential and make significant contributions to society.