As protests swell across the country and the dialogue on immigration becomes more heated, the educational futures of the children of undocumented immigrants have become an important aspect of the national debate.
The House and Senate bills proposing immigration reform include what is known as the DREAM Act, or Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2005. It states that undocumented minors who have lived in the U.S. for five years, have no criminal record, and are admitted to a college or university would be granted legal status for a period of six years.
When these students complete two years of college or two years of military service, they would become eligible to apply for residency or even citizenship.
Schools and colleges would be able to offer in-state tuition to these students, who would also be eligible to apply for federal financial aid.
Many feel that offering these benefits to undocumented immigrants gives them an unfair advantage and puts undue burden on taxpayers. Groups such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) have called the act "a massive illegal alien amnesty program disguised as an education initiative."
Currently, higher education institutions cannot offer in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants unless it is offered to all students. These students also are disqualified from state and federal financial aid programs, including scholarships, loans, and even work study.
An estimated 65,000 undocumented students graduate U.S. high schools each year. Many have live in the U.S. for most of their lives; for these minors, immigration was most likely not a personal choice. Many of them also hope to continue to college.
In a press release on the act, FAIR stated, “It will place American citizens in direct competition with illegal aliens for scarce slots in freshmen classes at state colleges and universities while awarding the illegal alien students with an amnesty.”
However, many current and aspiring students see the issue very differently.
The City University of New York’s (CUNY) Student Senate has created a special committee in support of the act. According to a recent report in The WORD, a CUNY journalism periodical, the Immigrant Student Affairs Committee “aims to gather the support of Chancellor [Matthew] Goldstein and organize actions in support of the DREAM Act” and to sponsor an event this May “to push for the passage of the DREAM Act by showcasing the struggle of undocumented students who are graduating from CUNY and need this bill to pass in order to continue their careers and lives.”
Across the country, groups of high school students have organized walk-outs to protest current immigration reform legislation; provisions for higher education have been central themes for these protesters. Georgetown University’s Youth Action Research Group has helped many students participate in demonstrations in the nation’s capital.
One participant in a recent rally told reporters, “It was an amazing day… We felt like we really sent a message.” Oscar Calix emigrated from Honduras five years ago and hoped that the demonstration would raise awareness about the act.
The current legislation before both houses of Congress marks the third time the DREAM Act has been presented. Activists and lawmakers suspect that this round of debates may be the most decisive and the best chance the act has had for passage.
Article Title : Immigrants Fight For Right to Higher Ed
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