By Sofia Sanchez
The DREAM Act, which gained headway last year, is now negatively impacted by a Republican majority senate. Prior to its amendment at the end of November, the bill included requirements such as permitting undocumented students who are residing within a state, the opportunity to gain identification cards.
The DREAM Act is focused upon youth who have grown up in this country without citizenship. Additionally, it would give them a way to obtain a lasting residence within the United States.
A rally was held in New York on February 14th in support of the more than two million undocumented students who live across the nation. An estimated 200,000 reside just in New York State alone.
The New York version of the DREAM Act has included a provision, which would allow undocumented students to obtain financial aid for college. Furthermore, as the federal DREAM Act has faced political opposition, the state version may be the only way to assist undocumented students.
Supporters of the bill are finding that the new provisions have limited the benefits that the DREAM Act was written to provide. However, these supporters are also recognizing that removing controversial elements of the DREAM Act may result in its passing.
A youth director, Natalia Aristizabal, from the Make the Road organization, commented on the DREAM Act saying, “We need to move forward legislation that improves the lives of students in the State of New York.”
Initially, the federal DREAM Act was announced in 2001 and Aristizabal has been working on its passing for seven years. She said, “It’s been very hard to continue to work so many years on this and see that it goes nowhere.”
At this time, only California, New Mexico and Texas allow undocumented students to gain tuition assistance without blocking them due to their legal status.
Another rally was held at New York’s capital recently involving 78 high school students. The youth journeyed to Albany with the goal of requesting legislators to pass the DREAM Act. They are still hopeful that one will pass at the state level in places such as New York where officials, including Mayor Bloomberg, have expressed support for the legislation.
Demonstrations very similar to the protests in New York have occurred throughout the nation. This week, a group of students from the Florida Immigrant Coalition defended their argument for granting undocumented students in-state tuition prices in front of the Florida legislature and the Committee for Secondary Education.
All wearing graduation caps, they showed their support of the bill by sharing their personal stories and struggles in pursuing a college diploma with undocumented status. The students were supported by representatives of various cultural organizations, affluent members of the Latino community and law firms from Tampa.
Unfortunately, the bill died in committee — this time around.
Only time will tell if the future holds a change of heart in Florida and the other states that have defeated state versions of the bill. What is certain is the need to support this significant demographic of the American population.
A demographic, who by no fault of their own, must endure not only the struggles of building a career for themselves in a country they consider their own — but holding on to the only life they’ve ever known.
Sofia Sanchez, a graduate of Florida International University, is a writer specializing in topics regarding the economy and employment trends.