By Sandy Rodriguez | Staff Writer |
The Development Relief and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM Act) was enacted on June 15, 2011, giving undocumented persons under the age of 31 who entered the U.S. financial assistance for higher education and the opportunity to obtain a social security number and a driver’s license.
“Thanks to the DREAM Act, I gained the desire to better myself. Knowing that I was given an opportunity to continue school made me more appreciative of education,” said student Angel Figueroa.
Many undocumented people come into the United States in hopes of a better future for their families, a better education for their children. Some undocumented students face financial difficulties when they try to reach a higher education.
“Being an undocumented student, I didn’t qualify for any type of financial aid, therefore I had to pay my whole tuition out of pocket every 10 weeks, this placed an enormous financial burden on my family and I,” stated Marco Rodriguez, a Cal Poly Pomona alumnus.
“Every 10 weeks I needed to come up with almost double what my family paid for rent, I found myself selling personal belongings and working long hours at two jobs just to pay for tuition, later my parents would sell all their valuables just to keep covering my tuition,” Rodriguez continued.
“The DREAM Act is bipartisan legislation that addresses the tragedy of young people who grew up in the United States and have graduated from our high schools, but whose future is circumscribed by our current immigration laws,” according to the National Immigration Law Center (NILC).
The DREAM Act helps students pay for college tuition by enabling them to apply for financial aid and offers them opportunities, such as getting a driver’s license or having a social security number.
Student Jazmyn Aguilar said, “I think it is great that we offer this sort of help to people who want to better their lives but don’t have the resources necessary to do so. I believe they can make our society a greater one. Maybe the person who invents a cure for cancer will be a Dreamer.”
The NILC also inform of major changes in law, such as “The DREAM Act would permit certain immigrant students who have grown up in the US to apply for temporary legal status and to eventually obtain permanent legal status and become eligible for U.S. citizenship if they go to college or serve in the US military.”
It would also allow states to provide students with in-state tuition without penalties, regardless of immigration status.
The DREAM Act is different from state to state. The Californian version of the DREAM Act, which passed in 2011, is made up of two Assembly Bills, AB 130 and AB 131.
“Together, these bills allow undocumented students to apply for and receive private scholarships (AB 130) and state financial aid, university grants, and community college fee waivers (AB 131),” said the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.
California is the most active DREAM Act beneficiary, with over 410,000 potential beneficiaries. Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois are major beneficiaries as well, according to immigrationpolicy.org.
Although most possible beneficiaries are Mexican, immigrants from other countries benefit from the DREAM Act, many of which are Asian and European immigrants. I asked Rodriguez for advice for current and future students; I found his answer inspirational.
“Never give up, stay strong and committed to your goals, never stop fighting to better yourself and your loved ones.”