Education and immigration remain important topics for Latino voters. The DREAM Act, which stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, addresses both these topics. Although the national debate continues on whether or not to pass a federal version of the DREAM Act, some states such as California and Illinois have already taken the matter of access to higher education into their own hands.
A national DREAM Act would facilitate access to college for immigrant students in the U.S. by restoring states’ rights to offer in-state tuition to immigrant students residing in their state. The DREAM Act would also provide a path to citizenship for hardworking immigrant youth who were brought to the U.S. as young children and to pursue higher education or military service, enabling them to contribute fully to our society.
According to a Pew Hispanic Center survey in 2011, 91% of Latinos support the DREAM Act, a proposal that would grant legal status to unauthorized immigrant children if they attend college or serve in the U.S. military for two years. And 84% of Latinos favor granting in-state tuition at public colleges to unauthorized immigrants who graduated from high school in their states.
Every year, U.S. high school graduates account for approximately 65,000 immigrant students. Brought to this country as young children, they have grown up in American K–12 schools and share our culture and values. Like their U.S.-born peers, they dream of pursuing higher education. Unfortunately, due to their immigration status, they are obstructed from the opportunities that make a college education affordable—in-state tuition rates, state and federal grants and loans, most private scholarships, and the ability to legally work their way through college.
In October 2011, Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Dream Act that allows high-achieving students who want to become citizens the opportunity to attend college, regardless of their immigration status. Latino students saw the law as a symbolic win, perhaps a step toward a federal law that would include a path to citizenship.
The passing of a federal DREAM Act will be a milestone in American education and to immigrant students who continue to give their best to the only country they’ve experienced as their home. It will provide a path to U.S. citizenship for hardworking and talented students, and afford them an opportunity to pursue higher education.
Young Latino voters can make their voice heard on Election Day. Understanding the federal, state and local ballot measures and each candidate’s stance on issues that affect them most is the first step to making the DREAM Act a reality.
Sources: DreamAct.info, NCLR.org, WhiteHouse.gov, US News.com, SCPR.org (Southern California Public Radio), Los Angeles Times, Pew Hispanic.org
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