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Deportation case of Harvard student stirs unrest in Latino community for passage of the DREAM Act

LatinaLista — Harvard sophomore and undocumented student, Eric Balderas, got some welcome news over the weekend — he would no longer face deportation to Mexico.


It seems Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had a change of heart. It could have been because of Sen. Durbin, who lobbied for leniency on behalf of Balderas, or maybe it was the Facebook page set up in his honor that generated over 6,000 friends who voiced their support in a variety of ways — from writing words of encouragement on the FB wall to calling the offices of senators to express their outrage over Balderas’ impending deportation.

Harvard student Eric Balderas in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass. on Friday. Josh Reynolds/Associated Press

Whatever it was, it worked and it signified an underlying truth that exists with each and every student deportation — it doesn’t make sense to deport someone who has lived their formative years in the United States, excelled personally and academically and considers themselves to be American before any other nationality.

A student that fits this criteria is known as a DREAM Act student. Balderas and others like him would benefit from the passage of what is known as the DREAM Act, where someone who was brought to this country as a young person, attended school and lived their lives as every other American youth, with the exception of not having the proper paperwork, would finally be allowed to gain citizenship by either attending college or vocational schooling or enlisting in the military.

Balderas’ case is not the first to galvanize public attention, and it won’t be the last but what happened to him and the outpour of outrage that it generated among the 6,000 who supported him underscores the realization that the immigration debate has reached a critical juncture that is now pitting immigrant advocates and the greater Latino community against congressional Democrats who support Comprehensive Immigration Reform — as long as the DREAM Act is part of that package.

There is a feeling gaining momentum among the greater Latino community and immigrant advocacy groups that while Congress is content to relegate CIR to the backburner until the necessary bipartisanship is reached on the issue, it is unfair for these students to have to wait any longer.

The desired strategy has always been to keep the DREAM Act as a part of (CIR). The belief is that deporting promising students is such an unpalatable proposition for any congressperson to endorse that it is the bargaining chip which improves the chances for passage of the overall CIR bill.

Yet, uncooperative Republicans in Congress and the insistence by Democrats that there be bipartisan support for CIR is making the likelihood of CIR being introduced this legislative season less and less likely.

However, more and more undocumented students are reaching their threshold for frustration and the sense of hopelessness that their future will amount to anything. In their eyes, the best time for them to go to school, learn and earn degrees is passing them by and there’s nothing they can do about it.

Some of these students have tried to do something.

A group of undocumented students walked from Miami to DC to ask the Obama administration to put a moratorium on deporting students. They were recently told by the White House, “No.”

Other students have gone on hunger strikes to force the issue or held rallies.

There is a sense of renewed desperation coming from these young people that was clearly illustrated in a video interview with Balderas (posted on before he knew he had been granted a deferment and an anonymous postcard sent by an undocumented student.

Both students expressed the desire to commit suicide.

People were so touched by the feeling of desperation expressed by the young person who sent in the postcard — he said was going to jump from the Golden Gate Bridge this summer because of his undocumented status and the feeling of not being wanted anywhere — that complete strangers set up a Facebook page and titled it “please don’t jump.”

In a matter of only two weeks, the page has registered over 67,000 members and it keeps growing that another page had to be created to handle the traffic.

This outpour of support for both these undocumented students, and ones in the past who have had their cases brought to the public’s attention, clearly show that the average citizen is not in favor of deporting students who had no fault in finding themselves growing up in the United States and who have led exemplary lives otherwise.

It’s no longer fair to use this group as a bargaining chip to get CIR passed in Congress. The other elements of any CIR bill should be strong and deserving enough to stand on their own merits.

It’s time to bring the DREAM Act to the floor of Congress and pass it before another school year begins and more hopes are bashed and time is lost just for the sake of making the job of passing CIR easier.



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  • TL Winslow
    June 21, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Higher education should be the right of all, but when it comes to the U.S. and Mexico, why act like the dream should all be on the U.S. side of the border? Learn about the nonpartisan nonracist Megamerge Dissolution Solution that can make the border go poof and equalize opportunities at

  • irma
    June 21, 2010 at 11:34 am

    The Dream act should be passed.
    I wonder though how their family members will fare. Mr Balderas’ situation drew attention to his undocumented family.
    I wonder, what will happen to them now.

  • amber
    June 21, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    I think that if Immigration is going to give him a permit.It should be fair to give that to everyone.What does this Harvard student have that the Millions of others don’t??He’s is not the only one with Merits.

  • Pepito
    June 22, 2010 at 1:13 am

    Why should an undocumented person be allowed to gain citizenship simply by attending college, vocational schooling, or enlisting in the military?
    And since when is attending college or vocational training of equal patriotic value as serving in the armed forces?
    Shouldn’t there be some intermediate steps like student visa, legal residence and finally citizenship- but only after meeting specific criteria for each of the steps?
    The terminology we use is important. Otherwise, most Americans, including myself, will not support it. The dream act will be perceived as giving preferential treatment to undocumented persons over legal immigrants who paid the price to enter the country as “legal residents” and must meet specific criteria before being eligible to apply for citizenship.
    It will simply be seen as unfair and will fail !!

  • irma
    June 22, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    The DREAM act would be fair.
    It is a fact that the American military is shrinking because no one volunteers.
    So one way, to keep our armed forces populated is to offer legal residency for qualified military recruits. So, the US government could offer legal residency to
    to undocumented young people in exchange for 2 to 3 years of military service. I do not think this is too much to ask. Indeed, in some countries military service is mandatory right out of high school for citizens of the country ( Israel).

  • Karen
    June 22, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Re: “And since when is attending college or vocational training of equal patriotic value as serving in the armed forces?”
    Because without people with college or vocational trainig, we would not have a country to defend.

  • Pepito
    June 23, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Hi Irma and Karen,
    My comment was directed at the article which implied that if you are undocumented and elect to go to college, vocational school, or join the service you should become an automatic U.S. Citizen. This “automatic award” to citizenship does not even apply to current legal residents and, therefore, my conclusion that it would be perceived as unfair.
    Specific responses to your comments:
    1. The U.S. military has met and will continue to exceed all their recruiting goals. This is a fact. Therefore, no need to go after undocumented recruits.
    2. American student enrollments in higher education have soared over the years. Again, no need to rely on the undocumented to maintain and sustain an educated citizenry.
    The issue we have is not college students but high caliber college graduate (master and PhD level) students with science and engineering majors. In such cases it is in “our” best interest to offer a student visa with legal residence after graduation.
    Bottom line: the dream act and any other favorable action towards the undocumented should be marketed to the American people as an act of compassion and a feasible way to solve the undocumented problem. Not as a right that somehow the undocumented has earned. Thus my comment that the “words we use do matter”. Don’t demand – Ask!

  • Alonzo
    June 24, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    Irma said: “It is a fact that the American military is shrinking because no one volunteers.”
    This is a lie. The recession has actually made the military the most stable of employers. There are more volunteers than ever. We don’t need any illegal aliens with allegience to Mexico. Such work should be given to US citizens and not to people who’ve slinked into the country.
    Our employment rate is almost 10 percent. Why would any loyal American suggest that US citizens should have to compete with foreigners for the honor of serving their country?
    DOD Announces Recruiting and Retention Numbers for April 2010
    The Department of Defense announced today its recruiting and retention statistics for the active and reserve components for April 2010.
    • Active Component.
    • Recruiting. All four active services met or exceeded their accession goals for April 2010. Navy data are preliminary due to flooding at its personnel command.
    o Army – 6,287 accessions with a goal of 6,056; 104 percent
    o Navy – 2,618 accessions with a goal of 2,618; 100 percent
    o Marine Corps – 798 accessions with a goal of 795; 100 percent
    o Air Force – 2,275 accessions with a goal of 2,275; 100 percent
    • Retention. Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force retention are above the fiscal-year-to-date goals for the first seven months of the year. Navy data are unavailable due to flooding at its personnel command.
    • Reserve Component.
    • Recruiting. The reserve components who reported data exceeded their accession goals for April 2010. Navy data are unavailable due to flooding at its personnel command.
    o Army National Guard – 6,774 accessions with a goal of 5,150; 132 percent
    o Army Reserve – 2,191 accessions with a goal of 2,070; 106 percent
    o Navy Reserve – the goal was 351; accession data unavailable due to flood
    o Marine Corps Reserve – 705 accessions with a goal of 513; 137 percent
    o Air National Guard – 701 accessions with a goal of 487; 144 percent
    o Air Force Reserve – 829 accessions with a goal of 784; 106 percent
    • Attrition. Losses in all reserve components are within acceptable limits

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