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.
My 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?