Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Our DREAM Students

Stephen V. Sundborg is President of Seattle University. His Op-Ed appeared in the LA Times today:
"Is there anything you can do so that my life does not come to a stop when I graduate from Seattle University in two years?"

The sophomore who asked me that question had just been elected a student body officer at SU, where I'm the president. I told him then that I would do everything I possibly could to help him and his undocumented college classmates. The best way to do that is to tell his story, which is also the story of so many others. "Hernando" is a pseudonym. He told me I could use his real name, but I'm not willing to do that.

Hernando is among the 65,000 undocumented students across the country who graduate each year from U.S. schools, where they have a right to K-12 education. Many colleges accept them, as we are allowed by law to do, and provide them institutional financial aid. In California this month, the state Supreme Court ruled that undocumented immigrants can be eligible for in-state tuition, but across the nation these students are barred from federal aid, and in most states, barred from state aid as well. Without Social Security numbers, they can't get a job to help pay for college. Yet they are among our hardest-working, most accomplished students and our most popular leaders. They could be deported at any time. When they graduate, they are unable to put their degrees to work.

These students are setting their hopes on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, which has been reintroduced in the lame-duck session of Congress by Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.). It applies to undocumented students who meet its residency and age requirements and who have good moral character. Once they have completed at least two years in college or in the military, the act provides two things: protection from deportation and a pathway to permanent legal residency after a conditional period during which they can work.

Though we cannot as a country yet get our arms around comprehensive immigration reform, we should be able to agree on the DREAM Act as a place to start. Hernando's story shows why. Read more..


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