By Dalia Singleton Gary, staff editor
Each year, about 75,000 bright, motivated and talented students graduate from U.S. high schools with an “undocumented” U.S. residence status. This situation provides these students with little hope of higher education or legal employment in the country they call home. The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act would give these students (who meet certain criteria) a path to participation in U.S. colleges, military, employment, and eventually citizenship.
Regrettably, after a nine year journey through Congress, the DREAM Act was most recently stalled in the Senate on September 21, 2010. Attached to a Defense Bill, the act was 4 votes shy of ending a filibuster on the issue.
Proponents of the DREAM Act have mostly emphasized the potential positive impact on the U.S. economy. Advocates have pointed to the DREAM Act as means to secure a return on investment for the “free” K-12 education government has provided for undocumented students. Unfortunately, this strategy has largely been unsuccessful because Americans do not see any immediate gain for themselves. Although improving the economy is good, for most Americans, it is not as significant as the sudden competition from recently legalized immigrants for jobs and college acceptances.
Several groups have successfully opposed the DREAM Act, primarily on the basis that it will encourage more illegal immigration and lead to increased competition for jobs and education. The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has referred to the DREAM Act as “amnesty” for illegal aliens, claiming that it rewards parents who violated immigration laws through their children, and provides an incentive for more illegal immigration.
In order to garner enough support to pass the DREAM ACT, we must shift the perception away from the economy and immigration and onto education as a civil right. The 1954 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board proved our nation’s commitment to ensuring the right to education, even for the most marginalized members of society. In this respect, times have changed only in that the “standard” level of education acceptable for members of our society is increasingly becoming a college degree.
At present, there is considerable public momentum behind education reform. Look at the examples of the recently released film, Waiting for “Superman” and its preview on Oprah, Obama’s Race to the Top program encouraging innovations in state school systems, and NBC’s Education Nation a nationally broadcasted discussion about improving the U.S. education system. The failures of the “system” to produce high levels of student achievement have attracted mainstream interest.
Riding the coattails of this movement would likely prove successful for the DREAM Act. In the absence of the DREAM Act, the talent of undocumented students is wasted. Currently, only 5-10 percent of undocumented high-school graduates go to college. This is undoubtedly reducing our nation’s overall graduation rate and can be viewed as a systemic failure that can be remedied by comprehensive education change.
Viewing the DREAM Act as a solution to failure in the education system also aligns the fate of undocumented students with “our own” children. These types of symbolic images are often very successful, particularly with middle class who most strongly oppose the Act on the basis of increased competition for jobs and education. This broader scope could also gain stronger support from powerful interest groups such as the National Education Association, Teacher’s Unions and family focused groups.
By Jade Lamb, staff editor
Cosatu, the trade union in question, will tell you it’s about money. They’re asking for an 8.6% raise and an R1000/month increase in housing allowance. After rejecting an offer of a 7.5% raise and R800/month housing allowance increase, Cosatu, which represents teachers, nurses, and a number of other civil servants, agreed to resume delivery of essential services for three weeks while continuing negotiations. After three weeks, though, school will be out and patients uncared for again.
Strikes in South Africa are de rigueur; about this time last year, postal workers went on strike for over a month, freezing mail delivery. Local taxi strikes, which basically halt local travel and are often violent, are too common to enumerate or gather news attention. Now Pick ‘n’ Pay employees, a large grocery chain, are going on strike too, and the mine strikes show no sign of ending. South Africa’s economy will not be taken seriously internationally as long as these continue; it’s up to workers, government, and businesses to start working together to find middle ground if they’re serious about economic stability and development.
The Cosatu strike, though, is too important to wait. The strike has halted essential social services, including schooling—which comes on top of a longer than usual winter break to accommodate the World Cup—and health services, resulting in many being turned away from clinics, AIDS patients going off their medicine, and long-term TB patients no longer receiving care. Nurses and teachers are better paid than many South Africans, where un- and underemployment are rife, and much existing employment is in the informal economy or unskilled work. Then again, they also are often earning money to support an extended family and though standards of living are lower than in the West, employment in a skilled profession usually brings economic stability rather than wealth. One wonders, though, if other perks—like better facilities and more equipment that will directly benefit students and patients—ought to have been part of the demanded package.
The strike has political implications for the relationship between the unions and the ANC. Unions thought that President Zuma’s inauguration last year would bring them a renewed power in government negotiations, and found instead that little changed. Rumblings of a strike have been going on since June. Striking has left the government hamstrung and certainly made apparent how important the striking workers are to the operation of the country, though in a nation so used to gaps in service delivery (see the 2008 power shortages), the pressure is somewhat stifled. The rejection of the government’s offer indicates that the unions are not interested in compromise, which will probably result in the government either meeting demands or making some other kinds of concessions. As a power play, striking may be pretty effective in demonstrating strength in the short-term, though as a tactic for improving education and healthcare in South Africa, it leaves a lot to be desired.
Welcome to the Sanford Journal of Public Policy (SJPP) website and blog. This is a new forum for SJPP staff members and guest bloggers to engage with current issues in public policy. Our posts will reflect the diversity of opinions and interests among the students at the Sanford School of Public Policy, and we hope this diversity will be matched with an equally broad readership of students, academics, and practitioners from a range of policy areas.
The SJPP, in its second year of publication, hopes that you find this blog and the other website content interesting and informative. Your feedback is welcome in the comments and at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Nina Hachigian and Mona Sutphen
Reviewed by Meaghan Monfort‡
Nina Hachigian and Mona Sutphen met while colleagues at the National Security Council under the Clinton Administration. Hachigian is currently a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress specializing in U.S. foreign policy, U.S.-China relations, and international institutions. She received her B.S. from Yale University and her J.D. from Stanford University. Sutphen, a former U.S. diplomat, is now serving in the Obama Administration as Deputy Chief of Staff. She earned a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College and her M.Sc. from the London School of Economics. With such diverse experience in and exposure to foreign affairs, these authors are especially qualified to recommend policies for the U.S. to thrive in the 21st century.
Hachigian and Sutphen wrote The Next American Century from 2006-2007 during the final years of the Bush Administration. The 2010 paperback edition includes a preface by Hachigian, in light of the election of President Obama in 2008. Eight chapters guide the reader through the challenges facing the U.S. in an age of rising powers.
Hachigian and Sutphen challenge a growing tendency in U.S. foreign policy discourse to view the rise of other global powers as a threat to American power and interests. Of specific interest are China, Russia, India, Japan, and Europe, which the authors refer to as “the pivotal powers” . These pivotal powers “have the resources to support or thwart U.S. aims, to build the world order or disrupt it” . South Africa, Brazil, and Iran do not make the list because, the authors argue, they do not meet this definition. South Africa’s military is modest and its influence lies mainly on the African continent, Brazil’s aims are not yet global despite its impressive resources, and Iran’s economy is too small. These states, however, could make the list in the future.
While all five pivotal powers are attended to in the text, the authors discuss at great length concerns over the growing influence of pivotal power number one—China. Hachigian and Sutphen also distinguish among the five powers in terms of their mentalities. China, Russia, and India “believe in their historical destiny as great powers, yet are simultaneously preoccupied with a raft of daunting internal challenges” . On the other hand, Japan and Europe are set apart because they are already major global powers cooperating with the U.S., and “both are also less enamored with the trappings of traditional demonstrations of power, which sets them apart from the other three” .
Given the timing of the book and the authors’ political affiliations, one might have expected a more scathing denouncement of the Bush Administration’s foreign policies. Instead, their work is refreshingly prescriptive and future-oriented. The authors outline how the U.S. can grow its innovative economy, maintain its role as a global leader, protect American lives, and advance the liberal world order. They direct our attention away from nebulous and indirect dangers and toward a focus on the threat of international terrorism. In a persuasive table, the authors compare the threats presented by China and radical Islamic terrorists as evidenced by: (1) number of Americans they have killed on U.S. soil; (2) belief in free trade and capitalism; (3) level of ideological expansionism; and (4) announced policy toward liberal world order, among others. They conclude that “China is a much more ambiguous potential foe than are terrorists, the true threat of today” . The U.S. should, as a result, focus on improving capabilities to target international terrorism instead of building up weapons systems and capabilities for highly unlikely, large-scale ground wars of the past.
The Next American Century successfully tackles the most common arguments for why the U.S. should feel threatened by the rise of pivotal powers. In its full form, the book is an encyclopedia of talking points on why global power is not a zero-sum game: international trade is good and should be encouraged; China is at least 40 years away from being a real military threat; dependency on foreign oil is not exceedingly dangerous; and it does not matter if foreign firms own American ones. The U.S., they argue, cannot insist on keeping other powers poor and weak in the name of self-preservation. Hachigian and Sutphen now have a likeminded leader in Washington, evidencing a trend toward agreement with the ideas and aims of this book. They aptly quote President Obama’s inaugural address when he proclaimed, “Our power alone cannot protect us” (xiii).
Perhaps the biggest criticism of this work is that it appears a bit unrealistic at times and too quickly dismisses the challenges of ideological differences. Illiberal politics in Russia and China are real roadblocks for the United States. Market transactions, which will no doubt drive our collaboration with the pivotal powers, are not immune to ideological battles. And cooperation in the market cannot be a cure-all for U.S. foreign policy. Google’s difficulties with Chinese internet censorship laws are a case in point. Additionally, while most agree on the need to keep and create jobs in the U.S. and attract investment from abroad, doing so is all the more challenging when other states cannot or do not regulate wages or adequately enforce tax laws.
Hachigian and Sutphen have created an impressive manual of policy prescriptions for the U.S., both domestically and internationally. Their policy recommendations—manage the national debt; construct collaborative relationships with the pivotal powers; revamp the education system to maintain leadership in innovation; put additional protections in place for workers; foil terrorist plots with smart technology and international cooperation; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and promote liberal norms and democracy abroad—will not be easy to accomplish. But Hachigian and Sutphen are optimistic, and they have outlined a coherent and sensible strategy for moving forward.
‡Meaghan Monfort is a Master of Public Policy candidate at the Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Religion from Syracuse University in 2008. As a Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellow, Monfort has worked at the Department of State in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs and in the Political Section of U.S. Embassy Moscow, Russia.