Archive for the ‘DREAM Act’ Category

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Maryland: A DREAM Act Deferred!

In DREAM Act on July 19, 2011 by NLLSA Mid-Atlantic Regional Director

April 13, 2001: Maryland joined the list of States to pass the DREAM Act and grant In-State tuition to undocumented high school graduates.  However by May, Maryland high school seniors affected by the legislation lost their dream.  Had anti-activists failed to collect the necessary signatures to put the DREAM Act on the November 2012 ballot, the law would have allowed undocumented children to qualify for in-state tuition at universities, colleges and community colleges.  Maryland taxpayers are already investing in these children from K-12 public education and despite criticism it is in the best interest of Maryland’s economy to continue this investment rather than letting our taxpayer dollars go to waste.  There are safeguards to ensure the intent of in-state tuition is upheld in that parents are required to pay taxes and students must have attended three years of a State high school.

Critics of the DREAM Act paint proponents as using the same old tired playbook that includes parading the best and the brightest high school students in front of Congress like PETA advertisements of polar bear cubs.  The counter movement subscribes to the belief that in-state tuition is amnesty that rewards and encourages more illegal immigration.  Both sides of the isle can agree that current immigration policy in the U.S. biggest contribution to its citizens is anger.  And when you smell smoke, there is usually a big pile of burning jealously, hatred, and free time around the corner.  The battle has become personal and the statistics are drawn down party lines.

Maryland’s Department of Legislatives Services estimated the State would require an additional $3.5 million annually to provide Dreamers with a higher education.  However, the White House website states that students inCalifornia who are impacted by the DREAM Act could “add between $1.4 to $3.6 trillion in taxable income to our economy over the course of careers, depending on how many ultimately gain legal status.”

The projections and estimates are vague at best and the DREAM Act can’t promise a ten-fold return on its investment.  But we won’t know until we try and the more time an effort spent on blocking the measure will only hinder its success if there is to be any.  Hopefully Maryland voters will ensure its future by allowing those students and their families to fulfill their dreams.

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“We are Undocumented, Unafraid, and Unapologetic!”

In DREAM Act,Education,Immigration,NLLSA,Politics,Race on May 10, 2011 by NLLSA Chair

This photo started circulating on Facebook among friends and supporters of the Indiana DREAMers hours after the demonstration


This is the motto that DREAMers in Indiana professed at a public town hall meeting on May 9, 2011.  Who are these DREAMers and why did they meet at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, IN? DREAMers are community supporters and students who, because of their immigration status, may be deprived of an education due to the passage of two bills in the state of Indiana.  The members of the Latino/a Youth CollectiveDREAM IU, and The DREAM is Coming gathered at the Indiana Statehouse on May 9 to openly speak about their immigration status and to urge Governor Mitch Daniels to veto the two discriminatory bills that have recently passed in the Indiana House and Senate.

The two bills at issue are Indiana  SB 590 and HB 1402.  SB 590 is an Arizona SB 1070 style bill which would allow the State to enforce immigration laws, a duty commonly reserved for the Federal Government.  It also includes measures, among other things, to require the state to stop offering government forms printed in languages other than English; it would calculate the cost of illegal immigration in Indiana including public benefits to seek reimbursement from the Federal Government; and would establish different bond requirements for undocumented defendants. [1]  HB 1402 contains language that would prevent undocumented students from receiving in state tuition at Indiana colleges and Universities. [2]

At the May 9 town hall meeting, DREAMers spoke about the impact that the passage of these two bills would have on their lives.   Student Rudy Hermosillo took the podium wearing his sunglasses.  His first statement was, “Is it sunny in here?…Because I want to have a bright future.”  He then went on to explain how he was brought to the United States when he was three months old and has lived in the U.S. ever since.  He then urged us to remember that the thing that makes the U.S. unique is that it was a country made up and built by immigrants.

Indiana University Bloomington student Omar Gama, an undocumented DREAMer spoke about his experience crossing the border at age eleven.  In a biography he elaborates on his experience:

I still remember those dark and cold moments when I walked for 3 nights and 2 days just to cross the border. Looking back as my mom was being left behind because she could not walk any longer, having complete strangers carry me because I was too tired to walk, stepping on cacti because it was too dark to see where I was going, to sleeping in a house with 20+ people waiting to be shipped to our destinations. [3]

After his account he added that he would never wish this experience on anyone.  Omar concluded his presentation by reminding us of a past declaration that Governor Daniels made in regards to education.  According to Omar, Governor Daniels stated that he was going to fight for reform that would help students achieve citizenship.   Omar and the DREAMers want to take him up on this offer and are asking Daniels to veto SB 590 and HB 1402.

Many of the presenters at the town hall meeting were undocumented student DREAMers who explained how these measures would affect their lives, but one student, a U.S. citizen, also spoke and explained how these two bills would affect citizen children if they were signed into law.  An eleven-year-old student took the podium and explained that her family consisted of members with mixed statuses.  Before she could go on, she burst into tears and members of the audience had to console her.  She regained her composure and explained that if SB 590 were enacted into law, her family would be forced to either separate or move away from Indiana.  With a sob she explained that she could not bear to think about being separated from her family especially her older brother.

The presentations by the DREAMers were heartfelt and emotional, but they did not just gather to share their stories, they came with a mission and were not going to leave the Statehouse without meeting with Governor Daniels.  In a press release issued by The DREAM is Coming, the DREAMers explained that on several occasions, they tried to contact Governor Daniels to schedule a meeting with him to talk about SB 590 and HB 1402.  Despite his constant refusal, the demonstrators were determined to meet with him before the day was over.

”]”]
DREAMers outside of Governor Mitch Daniel's Office

DREAMers demonstrating at the Indiana Statehouse, Courtesy of Cristal Cabrera

After the presentation five of the DREAMers, known as the Indiana 5, dressed in their high school graduation caps and gowns and went into Governor Daniels’ office to request a meeting with him.  When his spokeswoman refused to let them in, the Indiana 5 sat in the reception area of the Governor’s office where security urged them to leave.  In the atrium outside of Governor Daniels’ office, the rest of the meeting attendees began a demonstration with banners stating “Be Our Man Mitch Veto SB 590 TODAY” (a play on Governor Daniel’s campaign slogan “My Man Mitch”), “Allow us to reach our full citizenship Veto HB 1402,” “We Forgive but we don’t Forget MITCH A Successful Presidency Depends on the Latino Vote” (it is speculated that Governor Daniels will run as a Republican candidate in 2012).  Demonstrators were holding these banners as well as the Quilt of Dreams, a quilt that the Latino Youth Collective has been building over the last few years to raise awareness about the DREAM Act.

Police Officers intervene, picture courtesy of Cristal Cabrera

      Police officers almost immediately responded to the demonstration and tried to remove demonstrators from the door to Governor Daniels’ office.  When an officer tried to grab the Quilt of Dreams from demonstrator Idamarie Collazo, she refused to let him take it and then other officers intervened and arrested Ms. Collazco.  The rest of the demonstrators roared with anger and started to shout, “Up with hope, down with hate, Hoosiers don’t discriminate!”  Chanting continued as more and more officers arrived on scene.  The chants of the demonstrators ranged from “Education not Deportation” to “Stop 1402 we want to go to school.”

The demonstration ended when the Indiana 5 were arrested for not leaving the reception area of Governor Daniel’s office.  They were taken to the Marion County Processing Center where the remaining demonstrators held a vigil for the Indiana 5.  The DREAM is Coming is currently taking donations through their website to bail out the Indiana 5 under the Hoosier Dreamers Fund. DREAMers are now focusing on getting the Indiana 5 out of jail and urging the public to contact Governor Daniels about vetoing both SB 590 and HB 1402.

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Cristal Cabrera is a second-year student at Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis and serves as NLLSA’s Central Regional Director.

References:

[1] Indiana SB 590

[2] Indiana HB 1402

[3] Omar, The DREAM is Coming.com

[4] “Dreams over Hate – May 9, 2011,” Latino Youth Collective, Facebook.com

Articles

Maryland State Senate to Vote on Critical Immigrant Issue

In Academic,DREAM Act,Immigration,Legislation,Politics on March 7, 2011 by NLLSA Policy Initiative Director

The Maryland State Senate is preparing to vote on March 8th on whether or not to give undocumented students who reside in Maryland the right to pay the in-state tuition rate that documented students pay to attend the state’s public institutions of higher learning.  The measure has passed through the Senate Committee on Education and has gained considerable momentum.

The bill was introduced by freshman Senator Victor Ramirez and it would open the door to higher education for many Maryland students.  One of the bill’s key amendments would require undocumented students to attend a community college and transfer into a university prior to receiving the in-state tuition rate.  Nevertheless, this state bill will be happily embraced by the undocumented student community who were discouraged by the defeat of the national “DREAM Act” legislation that failed to pass through the United States Senate after passing through the United States House of Representatives.

The full story can be found here.  Hopefully the Maryland State Senate can pass the legislation and provide relief to thousands of students.  The success of this measure can have a significant effect on the prospect of national legislation affecting the education of undocumented students.

10 States (Washington, California, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, Illinois, and New York) already provide in-state tuition rates to undocumented students.  Maryland would become the 11th if this bill were to pass.

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Illegal Immigration and the U.S. Military: The Challenge of Reconciliation

In DREAM Act,Immigration,Legislation,Politics,U.S. Government on February 19, 2011 by NLLSA Treasurer

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) recently reported the story of decorated soldier Luis Lopez, who served 10 years in the U.S. Army, including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.  According to his commander, Mr. Lopez was “a critical part of the success of his unit fighting the global war on terrorism” and has over a dozen awards to prove it. 

Up until last week, the 28-year-old staff sergeant was also an undocumented immigrant.  Mr. Lopez was discharged from the Army in late December after he informed military officials that he applied for U.S. citizenship.  His illegal status—Mr. Lopez arrived from Mexico at the age of 8—prevented him from seeking employment while waiting for immigration officials to review his case.

Amid the national immigration debate, one section of the Immigration and Naturalization Act is often overlooked.  The statute provides that foreign nationals who have “served honorably” during wartime may secure citizenship “whether or not [they have been] lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence.”

As the article points out, this highlights the federal government’s “seemingly inconsistent” stance on immigration and the military.  Undocumented immigrants cannot legally enlist in the armed forces, but if they find a way to do so, they are given an opportunity to seek naturalization.

The statute has garnered attention recently during Congressional consideration of the DREAM Act.  Sen. Jeff Sessions (R–AL), an opponent of the legislation, has argued that the DREAM Act is not needed because “there is already a legal process in place for illegal aliens to obtain U.S. citizenship through military service.”  He notes that under 10 U.S.C. § 504, the Secretary of Defense can provide undocumented aliens the authority to enlist.  

The position advanced by Senator Sessions requires that undocumented aliens come forward and seek military enlistment by first getting approval from proper government authorities.  However, obtaining such approval is only possible under the statute if it is determined that the enlistment is “vital to the national interest.”  Short of meeting this arbitrary threshold, such military candidates must essentially falsify official documents, such as birth certificates, thereby breaking the law.  This falls short of providing the solution offered by the DREAM Act, which is a truly legal means of enlisting and securing citizenship. 

Mr. Lopez was granted citizenship after the WSJ began asking immigration authorities questions about his case.  He participated in a naturalization service last week, thereby finalizing the citizenship process.  Unfortunately, Mr. Lopez represents the exception.  Congress must now tackle the issue by giving undocumented men and women who want to serve in the U.S. military an opportunity to do so.

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Larry Banda is a third-year student at Loyola University Chicago School of Law and Treasurer of the National Latina/o Law Student Association.

Articles

The American DREAM

In Academic,DREAM Act,Immigration,Jobs,Latin America,Legislation,Mexico,NLLSA,Politics,Supreme Court,U.S. Government on August 21, 2010 by nllsachair

From a recent article on the Huffington Post’s website written on behalf of NLLSA:

Given the increasing importance of a college education, it’s finally time for Congress to end this absurdity and pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (“DREAM Act”). The DREAM Act, a bipartisan proposal, would provide qualifying students the opportunity to go to college or enlist in the military. To qualify an immigrant must have lived continuously in the United States for five years or more, have good moral character, and either earn a two-year degree from an accredited college or serve at least two years in the U.S. military within a six-year span.

If passed, the DREAM Act would restore every student’s right to finish her studies and to continue dreaming.

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Indeed, immigrant students who go to college later step into higher-paying jobs, increasing our tax revenue and consumer spending. This is a win-win for America: more education and more jobs.

Read the full piece here.