"Hold fast to dreams
"For when dreams die
"Life is a broken-winged bird
"That cannot fly.
"Hold fast to dreams
"For when dreams go
"Life is a barren field
"Frozen with snow."
— Langston Hughes
Dreams or hopes or seemingly unattainable wishes - whatever you want to call them - are all some people have when they talk about a future.
So why would we ever tell a bright-eyed youngster in this country who is hungry for knowledge, eagerly ambitious and desperate for the slightest chance that he or she doesn't have the right to dream?
That's what we are saying to hundreds of thousands who go to school, apply themselves with vibrant vigor and achieve in ways many find unimaginable based on their life's circumstances alone.
Some of us have no problem slamming doors in their faces, snatching opportunity from their grasps, cursing their existence and even kicking them out of the country.
I'm talking about the children of illegal immigrants who were brought here by their parents and, despite the place of their birth, know only one country: America. In fact, as far as they are concerned, they are American.
They have learned English, held their hands over their hearts as they recited the Pledge of Allegiance, excelled in public schools, been accepted in our universities and some have died wearing the uniform of the U.S. military.
But in our zeal to crack down on illegal immigration, to "protect our borders" and supposedly shore up our economy, some of these young people - among our best and brightest - are being targeted for deportation.
That's not only mean; it's crazy.
The recent cases of the 19-year-old Harvard student detained while trying to board a plane in San Antonio and the two brothers, ages 19 and 20, arrested on an Amtrak train are just three examples of why Congress should pass the DREAM Act.
President Barack Obama has called for comprehensive immigration reform that lawmakers don't have the will to tackle, much less pass, in this bitter election year. But there is no reason not to take an intermediate step and make it possible for children brought to this country as minors to remain here while pursuing an education.
The legislation, officially named Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, would not give anyone citizenship, but it would make them legal residents as long as they met certain qualifications.
If an illegal immigrant was younger than 16 when brought to this country, the DREAM Act would provide steps for awarding permanent residency that would include the ability to speak English, enrollment in higher education (university or vocational school) or enlisting in the military.
While the students would be eligible for private loans, they would not qualify for Pell Grants.
After receiving their education and becoming permanent residents, then they can get on the road to citizenship provided they abide by all other immigration rules.
It makes sense that we encourage these youngsters to get an education that, in turn, makes them more valuable citizens who will become taxpayers.
They should not be punished for a decision their parents made, and they should not have to remain in the shadows as they try to pursue their careers.
If Congress continues to drag its feet on this matter, then the president should make good on his campaign promise to do something about immigration by issuing an executive order prohibiting the deportation of any student in good standing who came to this country under age 16.
No other student should have to go through what Harvard sophomore Eric Balderas and brothers Carlos and Rafael Robles have gone through.
On the contrary, we should encourage and assist these young men and women to do the best they can in school and then to seek college degrees. And then we should welcome them into our communities as contributing members of society without any stigmas attached.
After all, they are ours.
They are part of us.
They are we.
How dare we deprive them of the very right to dream?
ABOUT THE WRITER
Bob Ray Sanders is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Readers may write to him at: 400 W. 7th Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76102, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.