February 23, 2007

Students organize rally in support of Dream Act

By Pablo Jaime Sáinz

Even though Ramon (not his real name) is an excellent student, due to his immigration status he can’t study full-time at a local San Diego university.

“I’m undocumented,” said 20-year-old Ramon. “I can’t get a job, I can’t get a drivers license. What’s worst is that I can’t get financial aid to pay for my studies.”

The young man from Mexico attends school half-time thanks to a loan from a high school mentor.

Ramon said that he spends a lot of time looking for donations to continue paying for college, something that has affected his academic achievement.

“I know that I could be doing better in college,” he said. “But sometimes I can’t concentrate because I have to look for funds to pay for it. It’s hard.”

Ramon is just one of thousands of undocumented students that could benefit if the Dream Act is approved by the U.S. Congress.

This Saturday, March 3, there will be a rally from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Chicano Park to support the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minor Act (DREAM Act), a measure that would give permanent residency status to certain undocumented students that have graduated from a U.S. high school and that have good grades and no criminal record.

Today, undocumented students can’t receive financial aid, such as grants and loans, from the federal and state governments.

If they don’t have a social security it’s really tough they’ll get to college. There are many students that deserve to go to college, but they can’t because they’re undocumented.

They have to pay for everything out of their own pockets and most of them come from low-income families. Each year the story repeats itself.

Also, in certain states, undocumented students have to pay higher out-of-state tuition rates.

The Dream Act, which was introduced by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, from Utah, would only apply to those who have been living in the U.S. since before they were 16, must have lived in the U.S. five years prior to the law’s enactment, and must have graduated from a U.S. high school. Also they most have good moral character and no criminal record.

Grecia Lima, a UCSD student and one of the March 3 rally organizers, said that the Dream Act is about offering opportunities to undocumented students that are committed to making the U.S. a better country.

We want higher education for all students, no matter what their immigration status is,” Lima said.

She said that several community and student organizations will attend the rally

Although the Dream Act has bipartisan support in Congress, some immigration experts doubt the bill will pass, due in part to the anti-immigrant sentiment present today throughout the country. Many conservatives believe it’s some sort of amnesty for a group of people, in this case, students.

Some say it’s like rewarding someone for breaking the law.

But the Dream Act has support from different non-profits and activists that lobby in favor of the measure.

Pro-immigrant groups say that undocumented students would work legally and they would pay taxes. That would be a benefit for the nation, they say.

Some students that support the Dream Act are organizing themselves. Many of them had never been involved in politics before, but that’s changing.

“This is really good because they have to get involved so that their voice can be heard,” Lima said.

For questions, concerns or to know more about how your organization can support future AB 540 events please contact Grecia Lima or Gladys Negrete at: ucsdiversity@yahoo.com.

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