It was a complete surprise to see that 0% HRC-rated Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) actually voted to repeal DADT yesterday, and I just wanted to concur with this statement from Faith in America:

Sens. Hagan, Burr thanked for courageous votes

Faith in America in a statement Saturday thanked North Carolina’s U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and U.S. Sen. Richard Burr for their vote to repeal the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy.

“Today’s vote in the U.S. Senate is a monumental achievement in the annals of the LGBT civil rights movements,” stated Faith in America Founder Mitchell Gold, immediately following Saturday’s 65-31 vote. “Our gay service men and women can live their lives with the same human dignity as others. An incredible burden of inequality has been lifted from these men and women.

“Most importantly, today’s vote sends a message to our gay youth that one of the largest institutions in our society considers them fully deserving of human dignity and equality. That is a powerful message, and one that all youth and their families need to hear.”

“We extend our sincere appreciation to Sens. Hagan and Burr for being courageous voices of equality for the state of North Carolina.”

And after that sincere pat on the back, I sadly must also note that both of my senators failed me miserably by voting against the DREAM Act. It is a cruel blow to the many young undocumented residents in North Carolina who want nothing more than to be educated and contribute to our society and be placed on a path to citizenship. They should not be punished for their parents decision to come to this country illegally.

Over three million students graduate from U.S. high schools every year. Most get the opportunity to test their dreams and live their American story. However, a group of approximately 65,000 youth do not get this opportunity; they are smeared with an inherited title, an illegal immigrant. These youth have lived in the United States for most of their lives and want nothing more than to be recognized for what they are, Americans.

The DREAM Act is a bipartisan legislation — pioneered by Sen. Orin Hatch [R-UT] and Sen. Richard Durbin [D-IL] — that can solve this hemorrhaging injustice in our society. Under the rigorous provisions of the DREAM Act, qualifying undocumented youth would be eligible for a 6 year long conditional path to citizenship that requires completion of a college degree or two years of military service.

While I am not shocked that Senator Burr voted against DREAM, it is appalling that Senator Hagan did so. I realize that dealing with immigration reform is politically difficult no matter what side of the aisle our elected officials are on.

Yesterday’s vote shows that neither of my senators is ready to muster up the courage to vote for one of the elements of reform that has the least political cost — supporting innocent children caught in the crossfire of the immigration battle.

I hope both the Democrats and Republicans can finally begin to focus on the stark reality that the failure on DREAM is a line in the sand on reform that has to be crossed in order to take any part of reform seriously. These are people, not statistics.

* Contrary to the thinking of some conservative yahoos, we cannot ship all undocumented people back to their country of origin.

* Undocumented workers are contributing to our economy in essential ways, as well as draining from our economy because we force them to live in the shadows and seek, for instance, health care by emergency room services.

* Undocumented residents are more often the victims of crime because thieves know they don’t want to deal with law enforcement. We are all less safe if crime is under-reported.

* The employers who hire them and we the consumers who buy the under-priced goods and services produced by their labor are freeloading on the backs of these undocumented workers.

Everyone has their heads in the sand, so I understand the reluctance of my senators in a state that relies on undocumented workers and has a large conservative base that wants to see this as a black/white issue. There is so much more complexity to this issue that requires courage and resolve. I saw that courage in yesterday’s DADT vote. I want to believe that they can dig deeper and lead, not cower in political fear, in order to take on immigration reform honestly.

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding