Imagine this: You are three years old. You probably won’t remember this moment, but it will define the rest of your life. Your parents, without your input, decide to cross the border into the United States. And with that, you become one of the estimated 12 to 20 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
The above scenario, while created, is all too real for a growing population of college-aged students, including our peers at academic institutions like Northwestern. They are students with good grades and character, but for whom the dream of college is hindered by a lack of legal paper trails.
The recent bi-partisan bill, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, seeks to address these needs by providing a path to citizenship through a choice of opportunities.
In the current bill, a six to eight year period would be offered to students having entered the U.S. before the age of 16 who have maintained at least five years of continual residency. Under the bill’s provisions, two options would be given: A chance to earn a degree or to serve in the military. At the conclusion of the period, students who have fulfilled the requirements would be granted permanent legal residency, the first step towards citizenship.
Senior Greta Floding said, “There isn’t a difference between our ancestors and the people coming in now. We’re all immigrants. As Christians, we’re called to love our neighbor. This is loving our neighbor. The people who would benefit from this are our peers.”
Others suggest that more comprehensive immigration reforms need to be passed hand-in-hand with the DREAM Act. Still others disagree with the act’s attachment to the National Defense Authorization Act, the bill that dispenses defense spending for the 2010 fiscal year.
In any case, how can students connect to this issue? Get informed. Research and understand the different opinions. Call or write your senator and make your voice heard as the November elections approach.