LatinaLista — When it comes to Congress undertaking immigration reform, there is one special demographic for whom it will mean a world of difference -- undocumented students.
It's known that any type of immigration reform will include a provision called the DREAM Act -- an official recognition of those young people, who were brought here by their parents at an early age, living their formative years in this country, and who will be allowed to put their college degrees to use or enter the military and serve their country.
There are an estimated 65,000 undocumented students in the country. Among them are two that I have had the pleasure of speaking with -- Ramiro and Benita.
Benita is a college graduate and Ramiro is attending college. Both of these young people have been thrust into the spotlight because they chose to speak out on behalf of students like themselves.
They work feverishly for passage of the DREAM Act -- speaking out about why the DREAM Act is needed -- all the while some of their peers are either being deported or receiving 11th hour reprieves for deportation.
Only last week a Chicago City Council committee unanimously passed a resolution in support of a Congressional bill that would let some undocumented immigrant students stay in the country.
That's awesome news for Ramiro because these days when he talks about the DREAM Act, he is both hopeful -- because he wants to retain a positive outlook, he says -- and cautious.
He sees how some Congressmen have used the issue of illegal immigration to try to derail the current healthcare debate and he fears the same tactics will be used to prolong the immigration reform debate.
But as more time passes, more young people run the risk of being discovered and getting deported when all they're doing is going to school or just waiting to see when Congress will take up "their" debate.
Benita is one of those who finds herself running out of time.
A New York Times article explains Benita's situation and a Facebook page titled "Don't Deport Benita Veliz" illustrates clearly her reality -- she may not be here when Congress squares off for Round I of the immigration reform debate.
In the past, Latina Lista has called for a moratorium on all student deportations, and it will take an Act of Obama to make that happen. In a recent interview, Department of Homeland Security, Sec. Janet Napolitano, explained the department's hands are tied when it comes to stopping the deportation of students.
The Secretary went on to say that any immigration reform bill must include the DREAM Act.
That's a given but even with reports that the administration wants to see work started on immigration reform by 2010, it leaves many students still in limbo who are anxious to start leading productive lives.
Since it's not known how a student deportation will affect the chances for return of any immigrant student who now qualifies for the DREAM Act -- currently, anyone deported is not allowed to return to the US either for years or ever -- it's important that things be put on hold when it comes to deporting these students now.
Because these students' lives are in this country and they will always want to return, even if it means doing so illegally. Unless a stipulation is included in any immigration reform bill regarding student deportations, the bill will have failed before it is passed.
To paraphrase what the writer of the New York Times piece on Benita Veliz wrote in his opening paragraph:
How will this country be a better place when we force students like Benita, Ramiro and the other 63,000 to leave it?