LatinaLista — Though the DREAM Act is currently making the rounds of congressional committees, two recent state versions failed to pass. Legislators who opposed granting in-state tuition to undocumented students cite arguments, that upon closer examination, get failing grades.
Itâ€™s only been a couple of weeks since Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois reintroduced the DREAM Act in Congress. In the process, heâ€™s placed himself in a delicate political situation as the congressional champion for the thousands of undocumented students whose futures lie in a state of limbo.
If Senator Durbin wins in getting his colleagues to pass the DREAM Act, these students will have a chance at becoming U.S. citizens as they either study their way to degrees and employable professions or enlist in the military to protect the country.
If he loses, over 60,000 young people will have lost the right to dream, not just that they can be anything they want, but that they can be anything at all.
For these young people who have never broken the law voluntarily, it would be an unjust price to pay to appease critics who somehow think preserving American sovereignty means depriving U.S.-raised children of a chance to make a living for themselves.
In recent days, both Arkansas and Colorado state legislatures have voted down their state versions of the DREAM Act.
Their actions illustrate how toxic the immigration issue remains with lawmakers and underscore three important points:
1. The DREAM Act is misunderstood.
2. Undocumented students remain unknown to opponents of the bill.
3. The denial of higher education to undocumented students has less to do with safeguarding the rights of citizens and everything to do with punishing the children for the sins of their parents.
A popular criticism cited for justifying a negative DREAM Act vote is that since undocumented students are not citizens they do not pay taxes, and like out-of-state students, should pay higher tuition rates.
However, the DREAM Act, as with the state versions, stipulate that the student must show a continuous presence in the country ranging from three to five years and have either a high school diploma or GED to show for it.
For some reason, critics are purposely confusing residency with citizenship. The students either live in a certain state and attend high school or they donâ€™t. If they do, theyâ€™re spending money on those football games, hair cuts, prom gowns, jeans, movies, dinner dates and whatever else young people do while supporting the local economy.
Another criticism against granting in-state tuition is that it unjustly favors undocumented students over other students in awarding seats in coveted college classes.
Itâ€™s convenient for these critics to forget that even undocumented students have to qualify to be admitted to any college. If going to a university, they too have to take either the SAT or ACT exams, have decent GPAs and class rankings and garner teacher recommendations.
If going to a community college, they have to illustrate, like their peers, that they want to be there by paying their tuition and books, showing up for class and doing the homework.
If by throwing undocumented students in the pool of eligible students makes the competition stiffer for everyone, thatâ€™s a good thing. In the end, the future of this nation rests with those who have the skills to compete in a global economy.
None of these arguments hold water in denying undocumented students an affordable way to get a degree, especially when considering the growing trend of online courses.
The Sloan Consortium reports that online college enrollments continue to grow at rates far in excess of the total higher education student population.
Itâ€™s easy to understand why. People use their own electricity to power up their computers, sit in the comfort of their own spaces, and do the work. Theyâ€™re not taking anyoneâ€™s seat and theyâ€™re using utilities they pay directly with their own money.
How undocumented students enrolled in online courses are jeopardizing the rights of citizens begs for an intelligent answer.
In the meantime, those legislators who deny in-state tuition to undocumented students are exemplifying the worst of what people with authority can do â€” impose undue hardship simply because they can, not because itâ€™s right.
We can only hope that Congress recognizes how arguments against the DREAM Act are invalid and the right thing to do would be to give these students a chance theyâ€™ve proven they deserve.