Wednesday, September 26, 2012

An Open Letter to Gov. Jan Brewer (uncensored version)

September 26, 2012

The Honorable Janice K. Brewer
Arizona Governor
Executive Tower
1700 West Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007

Dear Governor Brewer:

            Just like you, I’m also an overachiever.  I would imagine that very few expected that you would ever become the Governor of the great state of Arizona.  Similarly, against all odds, I graduated from law school and I am now a licensed attorney in Arizona.  But this letter is not about either of us.  In fact, this letter is about a group of achievers who want to have the opportunity to better society.  Yes, I’m talking about your favorite group of achievers: DREAMers.    

            On August 15, 2012, you issued an Executive Order which barred those individuals eligible for Deferred Action (DACA) from obtaining driver’s licenses or other state benefits.  After a fiscal analysis, I can only conclude that this decision was based upon your personal vendetta against President Barack Obama.  Besides having no basis in federal or state law to issue this executive order, your policy will cost the state and businesses millions of dollars.

            Had you, or your advisers, conducted an unbiased cost-benefit analysis, you would have likely concluded that this program will have a profoundly positive impact on a number of industries in our state, along with making our streets safer and saving Arizona resident’s money.  Before I go any further, I must confess that I am no economist and my calculations may be considered rudimentary to some, but it will definitely make sense to you.

            Let’s start from the basics: There is an estimated 50,000-80,000 individuals in Arizona who will qualify for DACA.  A driver’s license for applicants age 16-39 is $25.00.  Using the low-end estimate of individuals, which would mean the state is bound to earn $1.25 million in driver license fees.  Let me add that these individuals will only get work permission from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for two years and then have to apply for renewals.  That means the state will collect $1.25 million, or more, every two years!

            In order to qualify for work permission under DACA, all applicants will have to undergo a strict vetting process by DHS.  Candidates who will qualify must undergo background checks, been physically present in the United States for at least five years, and provide clear evidence that they have either completed high school or are currently in school.  Many have already taken college courses or completed their post-secondary schooling.  Therefore, we are talking about a class of individuals that are educated and will provide a benefit to the lagging Arizona economy.  Rather than taking jobs from U.S. citizens, they will help expand the growth of businesses and spend their hard-earned money in the state.

            Who else is bound to gain from the issuance of drivers licenses to DACA grantees?  Insurances companies, car dealers, gas stations, automotive service stations, car washes, and pretty much any business that is not near a bus stop.  Arizona is not exactly known for its excellent public transportation systems.  Therefore, getting from point A to point B can be difficult without an automobile.  According to the Insurance Research Council (IRC), one in eight Arizona drivers are uninsured.  According to IRC, Arizona has the fifth highest percentage of uninsured motorists at 22% of the population.  Insurance companies are bound to gain more customers and benefit their businesses when new drivers can either lease or purchase cars.  There will be a trickle-down benefit to gas stations, tire and brake repair, and many other related industries.

            The economic benefits to this program are considerable and I have attached a report from the Immigration Policy Center, American Immigration Council, which provides raw data of these benefits.  This includes tax benefits, expansion of investments, more spending and an increased incentive to fulfill educational goals.  Nobody loses from this program and the state is missing a golden opportunity.  This program only helps a narrow group of persons and, contrary to what you believe, will not be a magnet for others to enter the country without documentation.

            Assuming you have made it to this point in my letter and your eyes are not completely glazed over, I want to make a final legal point.  There is no doubt that the state is bound to lose money in litigation costs, and ultimately will lose in the courts, as the policy conflicts with state law and the federal REAL ID Act.  More wasted money on behalf of taxpayers, more image problems and less tourism. 

Just like you, I am stubborn.  However, I recognize that in order to function in society we must compromise, and sometimes make decisions that are against our core beliefs.  I believe that your advisors are misleading you on the issue of immigration and particularly in the benefits of this DACA program.   The benefits of this program to our state far outweigh the costs that we will incur if your executive order remains in place.  Therefore, with the utmost respect, I ask that you lift this executive order and allow the economic boon that this program will bring to our state to become a reality. 

Thank you and God bless America.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Defining a DREAMer

Defining a DREAMer

            Tonight I started thinking about the hundreds of times I’ve said, typed and dreamt the term “Dreamer” over the past couple years.  Not to mention the dozens of times I’ve watched the movie “Dinner with Schmucks” where the term Dreamer is used repeatedly (no one has ever accused me of being an intellect).  There is a scene in the movie where Barry, played by Steve Carrell, speaks about the “Tower of Dreamers.”  At the end of the monologue, Barry so movingly states:

            Dare to dream. Dream your wildest dreams.
You can climb the highest mountain.
You can drown in a teacup, if you find a big enough teacup.
And if somebody tells you that you can't do something, you say, 
"Yes, I can. 'Cause I'm doing it right now!"

We should all take a lesson from Barry and follow his direction!  After listening to the participants at the Democratic National Convention say “DREAMer” so many times that the term may have actually jumped the shark, I figured it might be fun to look up the definitions of the term.  I went on and found three definitions:

Dream·er [dree-mer] noun
1.  a person who dreams.
2.  a person who lives in a world of fantasy; one who is impractical and unrealistic.
3. a person whose ideas or projects are considered audacious or highly speculative; visionary.

A person who dreams: Well, duh.  This is exactly what I think of when I use the term DREAMer, in the immigration context.

A person who lives in a world of fantasy; one who is impractical and unrealistic: The GOP could be called DREAMers too?  Good luck with that self-deportation platform, Mr. Romney and Mr. Kobach.

A person whose ideas or projects are considered audacious or highly speculative; visionary: This might be a good definition for our President on immigration.  It would be nice to see wider use of his executive powers in order to stop the removal of individuals from the United States.  Lest we forget the record number of deportations on his watch, but with the recent announcement of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) perhaps it’s the first step to making good on his overdue promise for comprehensive immigration reform from four years ago.

Thinking back to the 2008 presidential election, I remember telling others about young people who were DREAM-Act eligible.  Always having to explain what it all meant.  Eventually I started using the term “DREAMer” on a regular basis, but I still had to explain what I meant by that expression.  Now the terminology has become part of the everyday vernacular.  There have been some incredible strides made in this movement during the past year.  Anyone who has been involved in this movement has a right to celebrate these achievements.  But, before we all start high-fiving one another or liking each other’s Facebook statuses, let’s remember that we still have a long, long way to go in this struggle.

We must continue to hold our politicians, on both sides of the aisle, accountable for their lack of leadership in getting Comprehensive Immigration Reform passed.  We cannot become complacent.  Do not forget about all those other “DREAMers” who may not meet the definition under DACA.  The 35-year-old DREAMer, the 40-year-old DREAMer, and the 50+ DREAMer’s.  Keep up the great work everyone and don’t forget to tell those people who try to dissuade you from speaking out:

"Yes, I can. ‘Cause I'm doing it right now!"