Dream Act almost a reality
Pending law affects illegal student immigrant status
February 2, 2005 6:45 PM
Javier Ruiz is only 22 years old, but sometimes he gets tired of dreaming. Though he has a high school diploma, he cannot attend college because his mother brought him to this country illegally when he was a kid and has no legal United States documentation.
But a pending law in Congress that would allow Ruiz and many young immigrants in his situation to adjust his legal status gives this SF State freshman hopeful a reason to smile–yet again.
The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act introduced in July 2003 by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) has a great chance of passing in Congress since it is a bipartisan bill and is getting more and more sympathizers on both chambers of Congress, according to supporters of the bill.
Under current immigration law, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), kids derive their legal status from their parents. If their parents are illegal or undocumented, so are their kids.
If enacted, the DREAM Act will allow those students who were brought into the United States illegally by their parents as minors, finished high school in the United States, never committed crimes, and are not a risk to society, to become conditional legal residents.
In 1982 the Supreme Court ruled that illegal immigrants cannot be barred from attending public elementary and secondary schools, but they cannot attend college.
Under the DREAM Act these students will be required to attend junior college, or join the military. After six years under that law, they will become permanent U.S. residents.
“These kids should not be accountable for what their parents did,” said Luis Campillo, a political scientist at the National Immigration Law Center, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group for immigrants and refugees.
Campillo said the DREAM Act is supported at the moment by 48 senators out of 100, and by 143 representatives out of 435. Among the supporters are Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein both Democrats from California.
Scott Gerber, a spokesperson for Sen. Feinstein, said the senator will promote the DREAM Act, but “the Republicans control the agenda. If the president wanted, he could call up the Republican leaders and say pass this bill [and] it will pass,” said Gerber.
According to the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., between 50,000 and 65,000 illegal or undocumented minors graduate from American high schools each year. The Urban Institute is a non-partisan research organization that analyzes recent data and trends in sociopolitical and economic areas of our society.
Under the current immigration law, the IIRIRA, these students cannot enroll in higher education institutions, greatly diminishing their prospects for good jobs and hindering their full contributions to society, proponents and supporters of the bill said.
Javier Ruiz, for instance, was brought to the United States when he was five years old. He barely remembers the figure of a woman that carried him in her arms as she passed through the immigration control at the Tijuana-San Diego border.
Ruiz attended J. Eugene McActeer High School and graduated in June 2001. He was always among the top students in his class as evidenced by the mostly A’s and B’s on his school report cards. Despite his good grades, he declined to take the SAT.
“I thought I did not have a chance to go to college,” Ruiz said. “I did not see the reason to study hard when I wouldn’t be able to succeed in the United States.”
Upon graduation, he took some menial jobs and struggled to keep his dream of going to college alive.
“My mother tells me to think positively and that the DREAM Act will bring benefits for students like me,” Ruiz said. He also said he is not sure whether President Bush would sign this bill because of Bush’s focus on Iraq.
“That makes me wonder if he can be trusted,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz’s distrust in the president is hardly an isolated sentiment, for some strong politicians and conservative groups in Washington are raising their voices to challenge and defeat the DREAM Act.
“It is sort of rewarding illegal immigration,” Martin said.
Opponents of the DREAM Act also said the bill will cut into federal assistance available to students with legal status; supporters of the bill say students benefiting from the DREAM Act won’t have preferential treatment and that they will compete in the college application pool with other state residents, out-of-state students, or foreign students.
Barbara Hubler, director of financial aid at SF State said the funding is not enough to meet the demands of students for loans and grants, let alone those students who would be able to apply for college should the DREAM Act pass.
“I really appreciate the government and its wisdom that would provide the necessary funds for those students,” said Hubler.
The fate of the DREAM Act is compounded by the top priorities of the 109th Congress. So far, revamping Social Security, and fixing the tax code have already created friction among Republicans.
“Sens. McCain of Arizona and Kennedy of Massachusetts are the strongest supporters of the DREAM Act,” said Campillo. Campillo also said his institution is “in the process of launching a campaign in support of the DREAM Act that will group 400 organizations” nationwide.
As the opponents of the DREAM Act gear up to lobby their congressmen to kill the bill, the optimism of the supporters of the bill has reached Ruiz’s imagination.
He has almost completed his requirements at City College to transfer to SF State. His girlfriend is also considering attending SF State with him.
“If the DREAM Act does not pass, I will continue with my education anyway,” Ruiz said. “Maybe another law will come up, or an amnesty… you never know.”
POST A COMMENT
|BACK TO TOP|| |
Copyright © 2008 [X]press | Journalism Department - San Francisco State University