4.07.2009

DREAM ACT

I am a pretty opinionated person. I have strong beliefs with regards to faith, politics, social issues, and many many other topics. Most of my beliefs are pretty controversial and I try really hard not alienate people. I was in debate in high school. In fact I was pretty good going to nationals twice and placing in the top 10 once. Needless to say there have been some issues that hit closer to home than other. Immigration is one of those issues and it has been recently in the news with new legislation that is very important to me being debated.

My mom is an immigrant to this country. She and my aunt came here years ago (30 to be exact) from Colombia South America. Three years ago this month my mom and my aunt took an oath and became naturalized citizens. Helping them with the application process was an experience I will never forget. To make a long story short even though we had no complications, lived in a very small state (immigration wise) her application when submitted was 26 pages long (copies of tax returns, children's birth certificates, the application itself, copy of marriage license, etc, etc), cost over $500, took 3 appointments (finger prints, written test, interview), and took a year from the time we submitted the application to when they scheduled her oath ceremony.

So the piece of legislation that I was referring to is called the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act). Essentially what this means is that an undocumented student would potentially have the opportunity to become a permanent resident without having to leave the US. In Kansas the DREAM act allows undocumented students that graduate from a Kansas high school to be granted in state tuition at any of the state colleges.

This does NOT mean that the student is eligible for federal aid. This is still really important because the cost of international tuition is much much higher than in state tuition and the student would have to go back to a country that they probably have never been to and apply for a student visa which could take years.

I have worked in financial aid for over 6 years. Some of these students had no idea that they were not a US citizen until they graduate from high school. They were brought over as infants and this deep family secret had no reason to be shared before then. It is heart breaking to see these kids who worked SO HARD have their dreams taken away. What would you do if your parents came to you as a senior in high school and tell you that you can't go to college unless you move to a country that you have never even visited. Everything you know would disappear. Who are we trying to punish here.

The arguments I have heard against this piece of legislation steams completely from ignorance. The fear that the US citizen kids would loose out to these illegal aliens when it comes to financial aid or scholarship money. This is not the case. If you look at the 10 states that have been allowing the DREAM act you can see that enrollment, average amount of scholarship dollars awarded, etc have not changed. This is not proposing the allowance of federal dollars either. In my opinion if an illegal alien has better grades, better essay, and better extra curricular activities then they deserve the scholarship money more anyways. Where you are born should not be determining factor. These students would be awarded similar dollars at most schools even without the dream act. The difference in what the family has to come up with is what is different.

Nothing frustrates me more than the impractical solutions that ignorant people come up with in dealing with immigration. Let's send them all home. Are you kidding me? Do you have any idea what that would do to our economy or how much that would cost? They take all of our jobs. Really? I don't see many people waiting in line to be migrant workers, meat packers, or any of the other thank less jobs they take on to support their families. They should have applied for a VISA and waited like everyone else. What would you do if you or your spouse got your VISA and could get a great job but the rest of your family and kids didn't? Would you wait the years (if ever) that it can sometimes take before moving your family out of a place that has no indoor plumbing, no jobs, and poor education systems?

So what is the answer if it's not those. I am not trying to argue amnesty here. I am saying that we have to be realistic. Bush (yes he did a few things that made sense) proposed and supported a piece of legislation that was a good starting point. He argued for a work to VISA program that allowed people who are already here to work towards and apply for permanent residence and eventually naturalization. Sending them home or trying to keep them out in the first place won't work. The system is broken and we need to take realistic looks at how to fix it. Congress and the White House knows this. It's the constituents (YES I mean you and me) that are the hold up. We are the ones that have these cave man ideas on how to handle the issues. Let's start with trying to figure out how to change the next generation by giving them an opportunity that we haven't figured how to give their parents. Let's take this vast resource we have right in front of us and nurture it and turn it into something that gives back.

2 comments:

kim said...

This is why I was not in debate in high school. I couldn't form an arguement that well if I was being paid a million bucks. Thank goodness there are people like you that can!

Adriana said...

Thanks Kim!