Hundreds march in support of education for undocumented
December 7, 2010 5:55 PM
More than 200 people marched through downtown San Francisco Dec. 3 in support of the U.S. Congress' pending vote to pass the controversial Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which seeks to provide a path to citizenship and educational opportunities for undocumented students.
The crowd, which consisted mostly of college students from Berkeley, San Jose and as far away as Los Angeles, gathered at the San Francisco Federal Building before marching down Market Street as chants of "We are people, we are not illegal" and "Education not deportation" rose above the crowd.
"Our parents came to this country with a dream," said Evergreen Valley College student Paul Candia, 22. "When we're denied the right to live here, we're having our dreams and opportunities taken away."
If passed, the DREAM Act would grant a conditional path to citizenship for undocumented students under the age of 30 who were brought to the U.S. as minors by their parents.
In order to remain in the U.S., one must have attained a high school diploma, receive admission to an institute for higher learning or fulfill military service, and have no criminal record.
Under the proposal, if none of those conditions are met within six years of arrival, one's residency status is revoked and deportation could follow.
However, the prospect of military service, even as a path to citizenship, did not sit well with some protestors.
"Sixty-seven percent of undocumented students join the military instead of going to college," said Berkeley resident and antiwar activist Pablo Paredes, who led a small group of Oakland High School students to the rally. "The DREAM Act would be beautiful if more undocumented students had access to an education."
A 2007 report by the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education revealed that of the roughly 65,000 undocumented students who graduate from high school each year, less than one in five have adequate funding for higher education.
If the DREAM Act passes, undocumented students would not be eligible for Pell educational grants or other federal grants under their conditional residency status, but would be eligible for loans and work-study agreements.
"It's unfair what they're (the government) trying to do to undocumented Latino students," said Matthew Cabrera, 38, a Bakersfield College student who made the drive to San Francisco with friends. "Everyone, illegal or not, should be entitled to an education."
Senate Republicans filibustered the progression of voting on the bill this past September, but President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats called for the reintroduction of the DREAM Act Nov. 29. It will be put to a vote Dec. 8 under the title Senate Bill 3992.
Since first being introduced to the House of Representatives and Senate in 2001, several revisions have been made to the proposed bill, mainly concerning the age limit of what defines an undocumented minor. Currently, one must arrive in the U.S. before 16 and be between 12 and 35 if and when the bill is enacted.
"It's high time that Congress stop playing games with the DREAM Act," said Maricruz Lopez, 22, a recent graduate of the University of Michigan and immigrant rights activist from Los Angeles. "For once, we're demanding that our politicians represent us."
Overall, the march and rally went smoothly for those involved, despite police temporarily blocking the Market and New Montgomery intersection.
"This was a great turnout," said rally organizer Mike Casas, who serves as the director of Activities of Associated Students at San Jose City College. "It was peaceful, we were escorted by police, no one was arrested. Hopefully we can get another rally in the next few weeks."
Ben Lynch, an organizer for By Any Means Necessary, an organization which fights for equality and immigration rights while defending affirmative action policies, said he sees hope for the future of undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
"Today we march, tomorrow we march. I'm optimistic about young people organizing and protesting these issues further," Lynch said. "Our organization has been fighting for the DREAM Act at every level and we will not stop until it's passed."
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