Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Dreaming in Minnesota

Yesterday I went to a rally for the Minnesota DREAM Act, a bill that would give undocumented high school students who attended high school for three years in Minnesota to pay resident tuition at state colleges and universities here and be eligible for scholarships. From what I can tell, the bill has a lot of support in the state legislature, but Gov. Pawlenty has threatened to veto it. His argument: undocumented kids shouldn't have rights that residents of other states don't have. It's an incredibly disingenuous argument - these kids live in Minnesota, and they didn't choose to come to the U.S., they came with their parents. Plus, denying immigrants access to college almost guarantees that the brighter undocumented kids will be denied higher paying jobs, a twisted logic that helps anti-immigrant politicans continue to justify claims that immigrants don't contribute to society.

Anyway, the 700 or so high school students that attended the rally and meetings with state legislators were awesome. A group of students ran the rally and training, and I went around with five 9-10 graders to talk to two legislators from rural Minnesota. One of the kids was an immigrant (legal) and the rest were white Americans. Even though they didn't know any immigrants that wouldn't be able to go to college, it was amazing to see how passionate they were about the cause. They actually convinced one the legislators to support the bill (he was new and hadn't heard much about it), and the Republican (undecided) also really listened and took the kids seriously. It made me really hopeful about the Dream Act - how can you tell a group of kids that you don't want to provide opportunities to all students, regardless of how they came to this country. I know it's a very small piece of reform that has a lot of bipartisan support (and it still hasn't passed at the federal level, although a number of states have), but there was so much energy among both immigrant and non-immigrant students that has the potential to spawn a real movement for change.

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