A great cruelty exists within the U.S. educational system: Millions of
undocumented students are allowed to attend high school, yet upon graduation,
their immigration status essentially bars them from continuing their studies at
But there is a possibility this situation may change soon — if congressional
lawmakers dare to put aside petty politics to approve the Development, Relief
and Education for Alien Minors Act.
Every year, more than 60,000 undocumented students find that the door to
higher education is shut to them because of their situation. Since most of these
students are not eligible for in-state tuition rates, nor for most forms of
financial aid or scholarships, it’s almost impossible for them to continue their
But the Dream Act offers a solution by helping thousands of undocumented
students go to college through student loans and federal work-study programs,
and by making them eligible for a permanent residence permit after they earn a
degree or complete two years of military service.
The time to pass this measure is now. We must remember that these young
people are not to blame for their residency situation — most were brought to
the U.S. when they were babies or small children. Returning them to the
countries where they were born would be just another act of cruelty — many know
nothing of their country of citizenship and, in some cases, don’t even speak the
These young people are essentially Americans, yet because they lack
documents, they don’t have access to loans or other aid. So what sort of future
can they hope for? I recently received several letters from undocumented
students — young, talented people who want to continue their studies, and who
could contribute greatly to the future of the U.S. and to the world if only we
let them. I wanted to share what some wrote:
+ “Sometimes, I try to imagine when … others began to see me as a
`monster’. It might have been sometime in 1993. I was 4 years old. Overnight, my
visa expired and I became undocumented.”
+ “Ever since I was 5 years old, my father spent most of his time in this
country working. Because of this, and because we wanted to be together, my
parents decided to move to the United States.”
+ “I was born in Tamaulipas, Mexico, about 2 miles from the Rio Grande. Four
years later I migrated with my family to Houston, Texas, and a few months later
I became an undocumented person.”
I have more letters, but the story is almost always the same.
Congress can do something to fix this problem, but it has to happen now.
According to Politico, Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, is
seriously considering bringing the Dream Act to a vote soon. While there are
enough votes in the House for it to pass, the real obstacle lies within the
A few days before the Nov. 2 midterm elections, Senate leader Harry Reid made
a promise in an interview with me. I asked, “Can you commit yourself right now
to bring again the Dream Act for a vote in the Senate during the lame-duck
“Yes, the answer is yes,” he answered. “I just need a handful of Republicans
to help me.”
In September, proponents of the Dream Act failed to obtain the necessary 60
votes for its approval in the Senate. Why? Not one Republican senator voted for
For the Dream Act to be approved, we need Republican senators’ support. So
far, none of them have committed themselves to supporting the Dream Act, but now
is the time to reconsider.
Politicians must remember that no political party can capture the White House
without the Latino vote — and a majority of Hispanics support the Dream Act.
When the 2012 presidential election comes around, Hispanic voters will not
forget who helped these young people and who did not.
A vote for the Dream Act is not only a moral choice that corrects an enduring
injustice while promoting education; it is one that would reaffirm the humanity
and compassion for which the U.S. is known.
Throughout their lives, we have told these young people that they can dream
big. Let’s not deny these dreams now.
By Jorge Ramos Avalos
© 2010 Jorge Ramos
(October 04, 2010)