A revived DREAM Act, and what it would mean

TUESDAY UPDATE: The DREAM Act died in the Senate today:



A proposed amendment to the annual defense bill would give at least temporary legal status to people who were brought to the United States illegally before they turned 16. That is, if they’ve been in the country for five years, if they’re under 35 when the act is passed, and if they’ve earned a high school diploma or GED.

DREAM Act letter-writing campaign Sunday at Asian Law Caucus. Bay Area News Group photoMy fellow Bay Area News Group reporters Matt O’Brien and Matt Krupnick wrote a story about this legislative move by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. They interviewed Aaron Townsend, principal of Coliseum College Prep, about what it would mean for his students if it passed. Here’s an excerpt:

If the DREAM Act is passed, it has been estimated that more than 500,000 California children and adults under 35 would be eligible for it — from twenty-somethings like Avila to elementary school students still not aware of what it means to be undocumented.

“A third of our student body would be instantly transformed,” said Aaron Townsend, principal of Coliseum College Prep, a middle and high school in East Oakland.

Being undocumented is a financial and emotional barrier to many of his students, holding back their aspirations for “what’s possible in life,” Townsend said. Many still excel despite these barriers, he said, including the three highest-ranked students in the school’s first graduating class who all lack legal immigration status. But once they graduate, many become paralyzed by the challenges of living in the shadows.

All beneficiaries of the DREAM Act, as it is currently proposed, must have been brought to the United States before they were 16 years old. They must graduate from high school or pass the GED to get a conditional green card that lasts for six years. Then, they must enroll in college or enlist in the military, spending at least two years pursuing a higher education or serving honorably in the armed forces before they can get permanent legal residency.

The bill, if made into law, would be unprecedented — never before has an immigration law been specifically tied to the educational attainment or military service of young people. But opponents say it is merely a ploy, a softer form of amnesty for illegal immigrants that tugs at the heartstrings but ends up encouraging more illegal immigration.

Are students aware of this bill? Is this something that has been (or will be) discussed in class? Teachers: If you have incorporated this into your lesson plan, how have you framed it?

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Dreamer

    Wow. I think of sweet “Maria,” one of the nicest students I have ever taught, who graduated at the top of her class two years ago, qualified for entrance into UC and is still working as a grocery store clerk under the table. She is still not enrolled in college because she is undocumented and cannot get financial aid and cannot see the point of paying for college herself only to have a degree people can’t honor because of her lack of papers. If another type of child is forced into a “crime” by an adult, he/she is not forever punished by society. He/she is not seen as a criminal, but a victim. Why should a person who had no say in coming to the country illegally and had no ability to go back to his/her country on his/her own as a small child have to suffer so for a lifetime?

  • Nextset

    I’ll tell you why, because it’s our nation not theirs.

    I believe that one way to stay and become legal was service in the US Armed Forces. At least that way there was a quid pro quo. Does anyone know if that route still exists?

  • oakteach

    It doesn’t. The federal dream act would open up that path to citizenship through two years in military OR college. If you read the article you would’ve known that, but clearly research is overrated on this board.

    It’s no wonder our economy is tanking and our global reputation is shot if we’re allowing the best and brightest students on our soil to work as grocery clerks. I have a hard time justifying such a waste in intellectual capital.

    And as far as it being “our country,” unless you’re native American, you are sadly mistaken. We’re a nation of immigrants. And the people who continue to deny that will inevitably end up on the wrong side of history, just as prejudices towards the “unskilled and stupid” white Europeans, and the interned Asians after them. All systems are perfectly designed to achieve the results they get, so until the US stops the feeble attempt to suppress and oppress Latino immigration and starts capitalizing on the vast array of benefits, we’ll continue to move closer and closer to the laughing stock of globalization.

  • Katy Murphy

    The Obama administration is in “full support” of the DREAM Act, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a conference call today:

    “I believe this is not only the right thing to do for the students… It’s also the right thing to do for the country…

    “The DREAM Act means that students who have lived most of their lives in America can get a college education. Above all, it will stop punishing young people for the accidental circumstances of their birth.

    “… Our country needs to benefit from their skills, their talents and their passions. We have to educate our way to a better economy…”

  • Katy Murphy

    The DREAM Act died in the Senate today:


  • http://www.thosewhocannotteach.blogspot.com Young Whan Choi

    As someone who has worked with undocumented students for the past 12 years, I can say that I have seen how the lack of access to college and higher education is completely demoralizing for undocumented youth. For a young person thinking about their future in this country, their motivation can dissipate and die. I have watched bright students give up on their studies and shed tears as they watch their peers receive acceptance letters. They can only feel hurt by a country that is at once home (though they did not choose it themselves) and still treats them as aliens.

    The DREAM act offers an incredible opportunity for some of our young undocumented students. But, it also sets a trap for this vulnerable population. It is a sad fact of this country that we have historically put our poorest, disenfranchised people of color on the frontlines to “serve honorably.” And frankly, most young people enter the military based on grandiose propaganda issued by military recruiters. By not providing financial aid options to undocumented students, even those who get into college are in a difficult position of paying their tuition. What choices are left? They choose the military, get shipped off, and come home in a casket.

  • Nextset

    Young Whan Choi: This nation owe loyalty to it’s own people – and it is the “people of color” who are most damaged by flooding the USA with 3rd worlders who compete with them for service jobs.

    Our governing elites are engaged in a war with the people of the USA and are in the process of replacing them with different people more to their liking.

    Every “illegal immigrant” (invader) not only brings themselves into this nation but all their descendants. And no, I don’t consider the children of invading colonists to be “Americans”. They are first and foremost citizens of the colonizing nation.

    This replacement process of the citizens affects blacks more than anyone. Whole industries that used to be largely worked by blacks are now taken by invaders. Mexican/Spanish language is now needed for employment in jobsites formerly worked by blacks. Having done all this damage the elites are now cooking up various amnesty schemes which will finish the job of replacing black voting blocks and elected positions with Mexican ones.

    So what we have here is a foreign invasion abetted by American traitors in high office. At least that is how it looks to those on the receiving end of this politically and economically. And the damage to the public schooling of blacks – major clients of the public schools – is serious also.

    Make your plans, because this invasion process will likely suffer a setback with the November 2010 and November 2012 elections. School policy of all kinds will likely change to exclude “illegals”,

  • Hot R

    The bill seemed so practical. No wonder its been killed by the Senate. Perhaps we will one day have immigration reform.

    Of course, a smart student could return to his/her home country for an education (if one was available). All things considered “Maria” must like it here more than her home country if she is willing to work as a checker instead of going to college. In the current economic climate, it is just not affordable to sustain the education of Americans and aliens. Even American students admitted to college have a very difficult time getting anything other than loans, and thus will graduate with a significan debt. The problem is much larger than the “Dream” Act.

    My understanding is that an alien can still join the military, receive an honorable discharge and be sworn in as a citizen. There have been over 37,000 aliens who served in the US military who have been US citizens includng 111 who became citizens posthumously. Tell “sweet” Maria to join up.


  • JustTeach!

    Only immigrants that entered the United States with a visa can enlist in the arm forces. Read the website more closely. Don’t you think a girl as intelligent as “Maria” would have researched all possible options??? I’m so tired of people thinking that there is a simple answer to our students’ situation.