About 65,000 undocumented students graduate each year from a U.S high school, and only about 5,000 of these students go on to see the steps of a college and even fewer graduate from these institutions of higher learning. These are the statistics from The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) an advocacy group for the advancement of minorities.
For the most part, many of these undocumented students were smuggled into this country as young children, their parents in hopes of giving their children a better life and giving them an education in the U.S. that they would not get in their homeland. Under current law these students derive their immigration status solely from their parents, most of them having no method for attaining legal residency. Most of these students have been in the U.S most of their lives; they share the same culture, values and dreams of a college education as their U.S citizen friends, but they have no way of accomplishing these goals and getting a good job due their undocumented status.
“I just want a fair shot like all others, I’m an undocumented alien I was smuggled into the country when I was 5 years old and this is the only place I know as home, I speak read and write English fluently, ” explains a 20 year old WCC student who would like to remain nameless. This student has tried to gain some kind of legal status in this country, but his efforts have been stalled with the expense and confusion of hearing after hearing at a San Francisco federal courthouse.
New legislation introduced into Congress recently brings out the issues of student immigrants and intends to change the law with the introduction of two separate bills both having the name of “Dream Act.”
The introduction of the Dream Act in the senate, also know as the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, occurred in late 2005 and the American Dream Act was introduced in the House of Representatives in early February. Both of these proposed laws would enable U.S.-raised immigrant students to pursue higher education or military servitude and earn U.S. citizenship.
If the Dream Act passes, it would permit certain immigrant students who have grown up in the U.S. to apply for temporary legal status, and if they have been law abiding for 6 years, they would eventually gain citizenship. It would also eliminate provisions that penalize states for granting undocumented students in state tuition.
Under these proposed legislations students who came to the U.S before the age of 15 and have a good record would qualify for conditional legal residency upon graduating from high school. Then they could seek out college or the military. It would also stop deportation of students in K-12 and would allow some high school students to work legally and upon their graduation from high school seek the conditional residency. The conditional residency would be lifted 6 years from application and would allow full citizenship if students graduated from a 2-year college or above or if they participated in the military for 2 years.
The NCLR sees a bright future for both of these bills and urges Congress to approve them. With no opposition from any lobbyist or other political groups, analysts predict the passage of the law in Congress and a signature by the President within a short time.
California State Senator Gil Cedillo supports these bills because he believes the United States should allow undocumented students access to public education.
“Throughout their formative years we have encouraged them to set educational goals and to dream of their success…then we should not shatter their hopes by imposing restrictions that bar them from continuing their education at a college or university,” said Senator Cedillo.