LatinaLista — Another school year is coming to an end and for the thousands of undocumented students who are graduating from high school, there's nothing to look forward to:
If they live in a state where racist legislators have enacted laws barring these students from getting in-state tuition.
If they live in a state where the higher authority has deemed them unworthy to attend a public university.
If they have graduated from college and now cannot put their degree to use.
The hard reality of what the present and the future hold for these students could be compared to someone serving a life sentence who didn't commit the crime themselves. The emotional toll of the prospect of living a life with no rights has to be excruciatingly painful.
"These are American-raised kids who were legally integrated into the framework of US society by virtue of going to K-12 in our school system," said Roberto Gonzales, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service, and the co-author of a new study on undocumented youth titled Awakening to a Nightmare. "Many of these DREAMers are fighting to hold onto an inclusion they've had since childhood."
Professor Gonzalez, and his co-author UC Irvine anthropologist Leo Chavez, interviewed dozens of undocumented youth who had gone to college to understand how they're coping after college. What Gonzalez and his colleague found was instead of giving up, or resorting to acting out their frustration in criminal ways, these students decided to no longer be the passive victims of laws they don't make sense and push back.
The result is an impressive national movement where undocumented graduates are practicing civil disobedience and getting arrested in the hopes of pressuring legislators to pass the DREAM Act, which would put them on a path to citizenship but equally important allow them to be just like every other college student who has the benefit of US citizenship.
The outlook for passage of the DREAM Act is uncertain at this point with both political parties offering up their own versions of the DREAM Act. While a lot of attention has been paid lately to the GOP version, authored by Sen. Marco Rubio, it's still unknown whether or not it would be supported by the accepted GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Romney, who has declared his opposition to the Democrat's version, has not publicly stated what he thinks about Rubio's alternative.
It's this uncertainty that eats away at the patience and hope undocumented youth have for passage of the Act. In response to the current level of uncertainty, a new national campaign launched by United We Dream called "Right to Dream."
The campaign entails an online petition where signees urge the Obama Administration to grant them a list of rights:
The Right to live our lives without fear
The Right to live with our families
The Right to live with our loved ones
The Right to move freely
The Right to education
The Right to give back to our communities
The Right to build a strong sustainable economy
The Right to fulfill our Dreams
The campaign launched today, a day designated as a National Day of Action.
While many people, Latino citizens and non-Latino citizens, have shown their solidarity with the DREAM students, Professor Gonzalez feels that the greater community must help these students in another very important way.
"Much of the discussion has been about outcomes — jobs, legalization, in-state tuition, etc. — all important but no one is addressing the emotional impact on these students," Professor Gonzalez said. "It's the community-based folks who can help relieve the stress of these students by creating programs that widen the menu of legally permissible options."
And in the process return some hope into their lives.