Dreams may come true for immigrants

Will Ashenmacher

The life of an undocumented immigrant is one of secrecy. Without a social security number or other forms of official identification, they cannot take out loans, open bank accounts or have driver’s licenses.

The undocumented status of college-age aliens also makes it difficult for them to attend colleges and universities.

However, a recent piece of federal legislation now before Congress could change that.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act proposes to give undocumented young people a chance to become U.S. citizens if they entered the United States before they were 16, have lived in the United States for five years and have either graduated from high school or are enrolled in college, according to the DREAM Bill.

Introduced to the Senate by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) earlier this year and currently awaiting voting, the bill would amend the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.

In the 1970s, the Supreme Court determined that undocumented immigrants were entitled to a public education, said Edward Fallone, associate professor of law. They were allowed to attend elementary, middle and high school.

College, however, remained a problem.

Undocumented students are able to apply to Marquette, but for most of these prospective students, enrollment is conditional on an I-20 form, said director of campus international programs David Bruey.

The federal government requires certified people at Marquette to fill out I-20 forms, which assess a student’s financial, academic and English language abilities for students.

The applicant then must take the I-20 to a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country and apply for a student visa before they are allowed to enroll, Bruey said.

Many undocumented students opt not to apply to an institution that requires them to use an I-20 to obtain a student visa because it would mean he or she would have to return to his or her home country, Bruey said.

If the visa is denied, then the prospective student would not be allowed to legally leave the country and enter the United States again.

To avoid having to fill out an I-20, many undocumented foreign students prefer to apply to state colleges and universities, which are prohibited from discriminating based on U.S. residency, Bruey said.

However, without citizenship, undocumented students cannot qualify for in-state tuition, Fallone said. For some students, it precludes them from getting a college education.

“These kids graduate high school with excellent grades — some even become valedictorians — but they can’t go to college because they can’t get in-state tuition, so they become waitresses or hotel workers,” Fallone said.

“It’s an enormous waste of potential.”

The DREAM Act has been criticized by such organizations as the Center for Immigration Studies and the Federation for Immigration Reform because they believe amnesty would attract more illegal immigrants.

A recent press release from the Federation for Immigrant Reform called the DREAM Act a “massive illegal alien amnesty program disguised as an educational initiative.”

The federation claimed that the act would force documented college and university applicants to compete unfairly with their undocumented counterparts for “scarce” freshman positions at U.S. schools.

The National Network for Immigration and Refugee rights, an immigrant rights group, has applauded it for its empowerment of undocumented aliens and the opportunities it creates.