I stopped by DREAM Army headquarters last night to watch Michael Nazario put his wannabe-U.S. troops through the paces.
See, Nazario and other members of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition have been camped out since last week near U.S. Senator John McCain's Phoenix office, at the corner of 16th Street and Missouri Avenue.
Sunday, Nazario, a former member of the Junior ROTC, schooled about 30 teenagers and twentysomethings on some basic moves, saluting, right-face, at ease. They were preparing for a demonstration today at the state Capitol, where they will rally for their cause.
They want McCain to support the legislation, which would allow young men and women brought to the U.S. from other countries when they were kids to apply for temporary residency. If within six years they earn a college degree or serve in the military, they could score a green card.
"We have a lot of young men and women who have been here with us who really want to be in the service," Nazario, 21, told me. "But because of their status, they're unable to."
In fact DREAM Act students live in a legal limbo. Although they've been educated in our K-12 public schools, as is mandated by the federal courts, they graduate from high school to a world of little hope, where they can't even score a driver's license or work legally.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is attaching the long-floundering DREAM Act to the Defense Authorization bill, along with a repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
Although McCain has backed DREAM Act legislation many times in the past, he's now opposing it, as is Sand Land's junior Senator Jon Kyl.
Nazario was brought into the U.S. illegally when he was seven. He graduated from Maryvale High School, and wants to enter the Marine Corps, but can't at present because of his undocumented status. On Friday, he caught McCain exiting his Phoenix office, and presented him with a letter urging him to vote for the DREAM Act.
McCain, a Navy pilot and POW during the Vietnam War, didn't speak with him. Still, Nazario thinks that the presence of his DREAM camp can change McCain's mind.
"We hope he will make the right choice," Nazario said of the Senator. "This is an opportunity to give the young men and women here a chance to defend this nation...We understand we are undocumented, but we have not committed any crime. We just want to serve and protect."
McCain, Kyl and other Republicans will find numerous excuses for not voting for the defense bill with a DREAM Act amendment attached.
Some GOP-ers even wrongly label the DREAM Act "amnesty," though it is nothing of the kind, particularly for those DREAM-ers willing to risk their lives fighting in Afghanistan. Truly, they will have earned their residency more than ordinary Americans who've scored their citizenship by birth.
Reid's gambit will have to garner 60 votes to override a filibuster. If it fails, the Democrats should play hardball, bringing the DREAM Act up again and again, until it succeeds. Immigration reform may not be on the horizon, but the DREAM Act should be a no-brainer, even for conservatives.
A vote is anticipated as early as Tuesday. So check out the Arizona Dream Act Coalition's Web site for how to call the Senators in play. The haters on the other side are doing the same, so every call counts.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.