Gary Francisco Keller Ph.D.

A documented victory for justice

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

Oscar Vásquez has finally returned home to Arizona! One small victory for justice, one quantum leap for undocumented students, of which nearly 60,000 graduate from high school each year.

In August, I described Oscar’s plight. He was on the legendary 2005 team that won a national underwater robotics competition, sending MIT to second place. In 2009, he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and received special recognition from commencement speaker President Barack Obama and ASU President Michael Crow. Then Oscar voluntarily returned to Mexico and applied to legally reenter the country. On August 30, 2010, after 361 days away from his wife and daughter, both U.S. citizens, Oscar was authorized to permanently return home. Kudos to Homeland Security and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which reviewed Oscar’s case and found it meritorious.

Justice prevailed for Oscar, but only with the help of extraordinary publicity and political energy. Joshua Davis got it started with his poignant article in Wired (April 2005), “La Vida Robot.” The achievements of Oscar’s team were highlighted by Nightline host George Stephanopoulos. His plight also received major coverage by Richard Ruelas in the Arizona Republic. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin even pushed for an expedited government review.

In an April 2009 policy brief, the College Board concluded that undocumented students in the U.S.A. are trapped in a legal paradox. They have a legal right to primary and secondary education and are generally allowed to go to college, but in Arizona and elsewhere, have been dehumanized by laws denying them financial aid with public funds. The College Board endorsed the DREAM Act on moral, humanitarian, and economic grounds. Our nation already ensures their K-12 education.

Check out the DREAM Act on the websites of Democratic Senator Durbin and Republican Senator Richard Lugar, who co-introduced this bipartisan legislation. It now has 40 co-sponsors in the Senate. The 2010 DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors) grants legal status to immigrants who entered the country as children and graduate from college or joined the military. The Department of Defense has judged the act as “very appealing” and “good for readiness.” Schools, universities and teachers support it as does the National Council of La Raza, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and CEOs of major companies like Microsoft and Pfizer.

President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano strongly support the DREAM Act. It is the only immigration reform legislation the Obama administration has endorsed, with realistic prospects for passage. Arizona Senators McCain and Kyl are not on board yet.

Meanwhile, in Arizona, we’re gonna celebrate and have a good time. A party was held at Carl Hayden High School in September for Oscar Vásquez and robotics classmate Cindy Villa, who also triumphed over similar challenges.

The intrepid Joshua Davis is still on the documentation prowl, working toward realizing a film adaptation of the story. Oscar’s story is a good and just ending for a movie that could be this decade’s Stand and Deliver. May Oscar’s character win the Oscar.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login