Tuesday, November 22, 2005

DREAM Act Reintroduced

I haven't seen anything in the big papers about this, but the DREAM Act was re-introduced yesterday (see the National Council of La Raza press release about it here). And here is an excellent article in the NY Sun about immigrant kids with college degrees forced to work low-wage jobs because of their undocumented status.

College Grads Who Are Illegal Immigrants Face Barren Job MarketBY DANIELA
GERSON - Staff Reporter of the SunNovember 22, 2005URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/23358

Each year, thousands of New York City students earn college degreesand yet have no possibility of finding work. The reason is not a lackof job offers, but because they are illegal immigrants."We have people who graduate at the top of their classes and they can't get jobs," the director of the City University of New York's Citizenship and Immigration Project, Allan Wernick, said yesterday at a City Council hearing. By recent counts, he said, there are 3,000 undocumented students in the CUNY system. Nationally, 65,000 illegal immigrant students are thought to graduate from high school each year. Alfredo, an illegal immigrant who is a senior at Baruch College, is facing the prospect of graduating this spring with a degree in business administration and no potential to work legally. At 10, his parents brought him to Long Island from Guatemala, but it was onlyyears later that he realized the implications of being illegal. "Inever thought it was such
a big issue until I started hitting theroadblocks," the 21-year-old said, noting
that teachers began tonominate him for awards he could not accept without a
Social Securitynumber. On Friday, a glimmer of hope appeared for immigrants such
as Alfredo. The Senate reintroduced legislation that would grant students
the opportunity to become permanent legal residents. If President Bush signs it by
the end of 2006, the bill, known as the Dream Act, would allow students to
receive temporary legal status when they graduate from high school. Upon
completing their studies or military service, the immigrants could then apply for
permanent legal status.
Additionally, the legislation would increase the number of statesoffering instate tuition to undocumented students and make more financial aid available. Unlike most other states across the country, schools in New York offer in-state tuition to immigrant students who have lived in the state, regardless of status.However, even the $4,000 tuition for senior colleges in the CUNYsystem or $2,800 for junior colleges can be a stretch for some immigrants. A teacher with dozens of undocumented students at Flushing High School in Queens, Martha Cruz, said some of her best students could not join their peers in college because their illegal status bars them from most forms of financial aid."I have one who graduated with over an 83 average and he's working at McDonald's because he wants to save to go to college, plus he has to help out at home," Ms. Cruz said. "If they continue to be undocumented they will work menial jobs." In Alfredo's case, his parents rented out two rooms in their Long Island house so he could attend Baruch. Unable to work legally while in college, he has helped cover his educationfees by working at restaurants for under-the-table pay.The evident humanitarian and economic case for providing students who had no choice in immigrating illegally to America with a chance to study and work make it a fairly popular bill. Critics, nonetheless, say it is a
sugar-coated amnesty rewarding illegality. Still, the Dream Act is generally
considered the immigrationlegislation most likely to pass next term. Senators
Clinton andSchumer were both cosigners of the initial bill but have not
yetsigned on to the reintroduced bill.For Alfredo, who is heading a campaign
with the CUNY Senate's newlyformed immigration committee to bring attention to
the issue, theDream Act is a question of practicality. "Without it there's
really nofuture for me. Even though I will have a bachelor's degree, I'm
goingto have to work some low-wage job," he said. "It makes sense forAmerica to
let me participate as much as I can."November 22, 2005 Edition >

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