The DREAM Act: Is It Only a Dream? (by Guest Blogger Krista Nuro, Spring 2013)

944816_10152806457380297_595198128_nAfter watching the short online “Teen DREAM Art Documentary”, I became further at a loss for why we continue to punish well-achieving students and take away their dreams of a higher education. This film touches upon the barriers that many undocumented students face through the eyes of Alejandra, a student who was brought to the United States from Mexico illegally by her parents at a young age. Despite her undocumented status, she became deeply involved in her community and volunteered and excelled at school, only to be denied equal access to her dream of going to college.

My feelings are best summed up by Congressman Bob Filner, who is interviewed for the film. Paraphrasing, he says that students who do well in school and want to go to college are qualified to go to college. It’s not their fault that their parents brought them here illegally, they’re not criminals, and they deserve an education.

While the DREAM Act failed to pass in 2010, there is still hope for tuition equity. In February of this year, Oregon passed House Bill 2787 which allows high-achieving high school graduates who have been accepted into an Oregon university to pay in state tuition. This is a big deal because it gives these students a better chance at earning a college degree and being on the path toward becoming an American citizen, without the fear of being deported back to a country that may seem foreign to them. I think what those who oppose this are still hesitant about is the word illegal, meaning that they did not put in the necessary time and money to get the right paperwork to immigrate here legally, so some may see this as a bit unfair to those that did.

While I personally believe that higher education should be easily accessible for everyone, the topic of illegal immigration and tuition equality sparked quite a lengthy discussion today in class, so I would like to ask a question relating to that:

Is tuition equality and citizenship for illegal students unfair for those that immigrated here legally? What about tuition equality for everyone?

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30 thoughts on “The DREAM Act: Is It Only a Dream? (by Guest Blogger Krista Nuro, Spring 2013)

  1. Although to some it does feel like the law is being undermined by providing these youth resources and opportunities to pursue success, the alternative is quite devastating and has much worse consequences. If not hope and opportunity to contribute, what do these youth have? Is it ethical to deny someone hope and opportunity?

  2. No! It is not fair, but life is not fair! However, I do commend those who obtain citizenship legally if they have the means and time to do so.
    It’s not like they are asking for free education, a hand-out, or a scholarship, they just want education equality which is more of a human rights issue than a social justice concern. Everyone has the right to education and I believe it is unethical to deny opportunity if someone is capable of achievement! They still have to pay the loans back just like the rest of us and this does not grant them citizenship, they are not seeking special rights, just equal. I was enthusiastic upon reading the article about House Bill 2787, Oregon’s Tuition Equity Bill. I was surprised to hear how it is a bi-partisan legislation that allows long-time, high-achieving Oregon high school graduates who have been accepted to an Oregon university to pay in-state tuition, regardless of their documentation status. But what about those mediocre students, do they not even stand a chance for college tuition equity? Ethnic diversity in a university setting is key to college success and promotes exposure and integration of other cultures into our state. I agree with this bill and hope to see more states adopt it.

    • Katie, what is contentious about this issue is exactly that an issue of federal law (within borders, that is) overlaps with human rights (borderless, universal).

      For example, if you say that “everyone has a right to education” I take you mean it in general. Or do you mean it in America? Because if you mean in general, then one could just as well say, “well, deport them and they’ll get their rightful education in their home country, which is, just like us, bound by universal moral law to serve them.”

      Human rights can be a huge threat to national sovereignty, because it lies always outside of specific jurisdictions. The problem, of course, is that the people who end up receiving benefits on the grounds of human rights are actually being benefitted by the rule of law in the specific setting. So as a citizen one needs to ask whether human rights should have the power to influence any specific jurisdiction, because the local law is unable to affect human rights, in turn.

      Human rights are abstract values created in the 18th century. They are not eternal, changeless like people take them to be. You say “ethnic diversity in a university setting is key to college success,” and while I am compelled to agree at least on the grounds of personal conviction and sympathy, it could be very well demonstrated that college success is perfectly possible in “monocultural” settings. It is perhaps a terrible thing that our most cutting-edge physicists can very well be mostrous racists.

      I think this subject is really fascinating. Something worth thinking is whether we benefit more from the rule of law in the nation, or from human rights.

  3. This is a controversial issue but we have to look at the facts: if the DREAM would’ve passed, then that will mean that ELIGIBLE students (keep in mind all the things that have to be and are going to be in regards to being eligible and accepted) can attend college without worrying about paying for out of state tuition, but it does not mean that they are granted citizenship; they are given temporary residency in which time they can apply for permanent residency or citizenship. They are to go through the process just like any other person who wants it. The issue here is about giving people who want to get a higher education, to get that education, not about whether they’re here illegally or not. Again, giving undocumented students tuition equity isn’t giving them citizenship; this seems to be a distinction that most people don’t seem to see or want to see. They just assume that tuition equity equals citizenship, it doesn’t. The citizenship process is very hard and time consuming (I’ve gone through it with my parents who are here with green cards), but I don’t see a connection between getting citizenship and tuition equity when it comes to whether you’re here illegally or not because I believe the process is the same, regardless. But then again, I am not well versed in the matter of becoming an American citizen.

    • Lisa, that is what I find so frustrating too. Some people think that by allowing illegal students tuition equity they get an automatic acceptance to becoming a U.S. citizen, which is not the case (because as you said they still need to apply while working toward a degree). I try my best to avoid reading the comment sections on some of these articles relating to this issue because of these huge assumptions, but it makes it hard when you want to consider other views.

      • The hardest part about reading about the DREAM Act, or Oregon House Bill 2787, is reading the comments section. Too many people read the first sentence (if that) and instantly proceed to the comments to spit their bigoted filth. The internet has become too often a playground for those that have nothing to say but yet want to say it. All it takes these days is a keyboard and an Internet connection and you can be an asshole anonymously. It is really frustrating to me.

      • I agree with both you and Kyle, reading the comment section can just be a big mess sometimes especially when it comes to these kinds of issues. I think people just get caught up in seeing any kind of threat to their views and in turn just react in a way in which they are just unaware of the whole issue, in other words, they become, as Kyle puts it: assholes. But this is definitely a general thing that happens: people just hear the first part of an argument or just read the first part of an issue, and from there on, go on their tirade; they don’t take the time to stop and read and listen to all the points, and in some cases, the opposing side or the downfalls are stated.In the case that they don’t take the time to know all the information out that is out there, they are are just assuming that the people who drew up the act (the DREAM Act) don’t know the implications that this kind of thing would cause: surge in illegal immigrants, rewarding citizenship to “lawbreakers”, taking away jobs and opportunities from legal residents. But the truth is that, the people who drew up the Act do know these things and that’s why the restrictions or ‘eligibility criteria’ was included; the Act wasn’t just proposed without any thought into how this would effect the legal residents, in which case that it would’ve been, it would’ve been shot down the first time and died without all the revisions (although sadly, the DREAM Act did die).

    • I wish that people could see it with your sense of logic. There are so many people that do not understand that this is not allowing a direct way into citizenship but a route to help differ the burden being an illegal is. Kyle is correct too, these days it has become very simplistic to sit behind a keyboard and write inaccurate posts that will influence whoever my not have the ability or want to educate themselves on the subject. It creates drones that keep perpetuating thoughts that, in my opinion, do not belong in the conversation.

      • People really need do need to change their sense of logic in order to have a proper view of things. Our country at large is lazy and will ALWAYS AND SURELY take the easiest way out of things; in order to accomplish their goals that much faster. People not bothering to properly educate themselves and trying to sound like they are the most intelligent person in the room make me sick, and I can’t stand to be around them. So, ultimately, thank you Kyle for starting up this thread of comments.

        –Joshua

  4. No, I don’t think it’s unfair at all. Education is the most valuable asset you can buy and will last forever. It doesn’t make sense for kids to grow up in America, go to school K-12 then be forced to go back to their home countries that they have no recollection of. Especially when they were brought to America without a choice of doing so. The readings referred to the struggle for equality and I think Oregon is following nicely with the House Bill 2787. If a child has proven to work hard during their academic studies then they have proven to be motivated and determined enough to work just as hard in college. The only concern I have is when an illegal immigrant graduates college and gets a degree, what happens next? If they haven’t obtained a green card, are they deported? It wouldn’t seem like that would be very beneficial or you think kids would just stay in school longer then needed. There definitely needs to be an added program to close the gaps, if their isn’t any already.

  5. I guess when you get to the core of it, for me anyways, how can this possibly be a bad idea? I guess when you get to the core of it, for me anyways, how can this possibly be a bad idea? Currently in our country we are in a dilemma of our companies being forced to outsource work to other countries, import foreign workers into to do jobs that educated Americans could be doing. Additionally it is not as if our state schools have a lack of space available to students. What is potentially problematic about letting these students pay in-state tuition? They STILL have to go through the citizenship process and going to school does not guarantee citizen ship. If you read the Oregon House Act 2787 you will notice that the student needs to be in high school for at least three years and has to graduate and has to apply for college and still perform well in order and have intention on applying for citizenship for become eligible for instate tuition.
    If you put an age on that, the student needs to be in the country before the age of 14/15. How many of you were able to make your own decisions at that age? If they are here, they are not here on their own accord, but yet we have been treating them as if it was their choice to be here. I can respect those who have gone through the process the correct way, but I feel as if we are doing a huge disservice to those that also earn their way here (albeit through a different route).

    • Kyle, I think the argument in your post is pretty sound. I think this whole discussion would be different if the DREAM Act had been accompanied by thougher policies to keep illegals from coming in. At this point I find it silly to create barries for those who have been here. It is just petty politics at heart.

      I can understand why one would think the DREAM Act somehow trivializes the question of illegal immigration, but I don’t agree with that.

      Now when you talk about creating an educated work force, I think the government could give back at least part of the money I spent on application fees to be a legal resident, in the form of tuition relief (that could potentially mean for me 2 terms), since I did the whole thing legally, thus showing I have the intention to be educated here and work here as part of the educated work force, with no intention to leave the country.

      • Nelson, I think that is an interesting way to solve the high cost of applying for a citizenship. I think part of why it is so costly in the first place is because they want to see that you want to be here, and have the means to do so. I see this tuition relief as a kind of deposit with the trust that you would work to earn a college degree and be a part of the workforce. I would be interested to find out more about this and if it is possibly and what not.

  6. As a previous respondent wrote “…life is not fair…” and this is precisely why policies like Oregon House Bill 2787 are necessary. Nationwide educational inequities are precipitous and crystalized. For too long they have perpetrated and perpetuated in state education systems. Though political rhetoric is tinged with calls to improve education, tuition equity policies like Oregon House BIll 2787 are unfortunate novelties. Novelties because our politicians too often abstractly discuss some always-out-of-reach panacea and fail to take concrete steps to solve concrete problems.
    Because each student deserves the chance at a higher education based on merit, Oregon House Bill 2787 and other tuition equity bills are a long time coming. Article 26 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states “…higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.” Oregon House Bill 2787 addresses this very issue. All students are entitled to an equal and equitable education. But education still is not coterminous to human rights in the United States. A higher education based on merit is indeed a human right; where one is born is too paltry a requirement on which to base the trajectory of their future. Maybe now is the time, as Seamus Heaney writes, “That justice can rise up/and hope and history rhyme.”

    • Hi Randy…I am glad you’ve brought up the Oregon House Bill 2787 and the Dream Act, hopefully it will provide more opportunities for all merit based students (even those who still complete their college education) to acquire fair and reasonable costs associated with obtaining a good and decent education. I remember growing up thinking we were a nation of immigrants looking to fulfill the “American Dream”, now we have become a nation of borders. A house that is divided on sandy foundation will not stand for long.

  7. This can be a touchy issue for some because there are many people that want to attend college and can not afford. But, as stressed in many of the readings there is struggle for equality and children that were brought here by their parents at a young age and excel in school should have the opportunity to receive a college education. Everybody that works hard to attain their goals should be afforded the opportunity to do so. The Oregon House Act 2787 is a great step in helping those that were brought here by their parents and did not have a say in it. Why should these students suffer because of a decision their parents made? I do believe that while attending college the student should become an American citizen and continue being a great student.

  8. The problem with allowing all students to become citizens is that it favors those in the education system only. What about other immigrants who are successful business owners, volunteers, agriculturalists, etc., who also benefit the entire community greatly? They may not get a fair chance at citizenship if they are not enrolled. I think that the amount and in state tuition should remain the focus for the Dream Act and The Oregon House Act 2787, complicating it and tying the opportunity for an equal education with in-state prices to permanent citizenship makes it way less likely to pass overall. Unfortunately our Homeland security and immigration sponsorship programs to help people get into the United States have been drastically halted since the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. This supposedly provides greater safety by letting less suspected “Terrorists” inside our borders, but also creates an unfairness of deserving people who should be allowed to stay here or visit as we too benefit from having them here.

    • I understand what you’re saying when you say that ‘it favors those in the education system only’. A lot of immigrants who come here don’t know much English or anything at all about the history of this country and the government system, which are the majority of the things that you need to know to pass the citizenship test. And since most immigrants are adults, it’s harder for them to get the education they need to successfully past the test because learning a new language and history is much harder for adults than it is for children, and they have to worry about getting/doing jobs to support themselves (and their families) instead of getting an education.

  9. I do not think that it is fair that only certain students will get help with tuition equality. The bill is a step in the right direction because people are realizing that education should be available to all, whether they are here illegally or legally. However, as a college student myself this is frustrating as well. I, and many others I have spoken to, did not receive anything what so ever in aid to pay for our college education. Yes, I got federal loans, which I will be paying back for the majority of my career. I think that if the bill was changed to give all students tuition equality we would be taking a step in the right direction.

  10. Maybe I do not understand exactly how it works, but how is having tuition be equitable for everyone, legal citizens and illegal citizens alike, unfair? Unfair is a child who has spent the better part of their life in the U.S., doing well in school, then being denied the opportunity to further their education and becoming a contributing member of the society they were raised in, or worse, being threatened with deportation. Education should not be dependent on immigration status, especially if a child has demonstrated ability throughout the rest of their education.
    As Desmond Tutu said in his essay “No Future Without Forgiveness,” “…[T]he cycle of reprisal and counter reprisal that had characterized…national history had to be broken and that the only way to do this was to go beyond retributive justice to restorative justice, to move on to forgiveness, because without it there was no future.” Americans need to move beyond caring about who is right and who is wrong in the illegal immigration debate, and understand that almost every person who comes to this country has something to contribute. Young people brought here as infants had no say in coming here, and should not be punished for their parents mistakes.

  11. I definitely don’t think tuition equality and citizenship for illegal students is unfair to those that immigrated here legally. In fact, I think it’s excellent that as a state we’re assisting these students. However, I think when we’re considering funding and creating tuition equality, we should be considering the big picture – like what really goes into educational movements like the DREAM act. Everyone has to have their own cause, and the DREAM act is a good start, but wouldn’t it be more efficient if we were focusing not only on illegal immigrants, but on ALL students who haven’t had easy lives. Additionally, by focusing solely on tuition equality we’re missing all of the steps that these students need to get them to college. Why should we only help the few that somehow made it, when we can start with kindergartners and make sure they make it? I think when zeroing in on something like immigration and education, we’re missing major components of what it takes to make a student successful in the long run. If you just focus on an outcome like college and neglect everything it takes to get to college, students won’t have what it takes to actually succeed.

  12. As many have stated already, clearly this is a controversial issue. I also agree that I don’t think tuition equity is unfair. If this were a case that stated that you were automatically given citizenship as well then that would be a different story, but that’s not what’s going on here. Especially after our class discussion I think it’s really important to understand the challenges that people go through when immigrating and go through the citizenship process. I think it’s unfair that some people have found ways to avoid that process, even though I understand why some choose to do it. From what I can only imagine from hearing students stories its a painfully long, complicated, and expensive process. For someone who couldn’t afford the process who is trying to get away from their country, maybe even to save their and their family’s lives, what have they got to loose? This doesn’t make it fair though. I also agree with the comments above about people who don’t fully understand the DREAM act and go on their negative rants in the comments. People need to understand that they still have to go through the citizenship process. All we are trying to give these students, who are high achieving and qualified is an EQUAL chance at education. They have had to work hard to get to where they are, and I’m sure it hasn’t been easy for them but they’ve done it. I think those students deserve that chance.

  13. Here’s an idea: There’s this little thing called “Residency” I believe you obtain it in most states by working and living there for one year, after that you can claim residency and pay the in-state tuition fees which are often 3 times lower than the out of state fees.
    Why does this not apply to all residents, regardless of your citizenship status, in terms of education only? Why does this law discriminate against those without proper status or papers? The US is still majorly benefitting from these students tuition fees, loan interests, and the possible integration of their skills into our job markets!
    These kinds of unfair laws force activists to create equality by inventing ways around them like the DREAM Act, which has taken lots of time and probably money, to then be overthrown and not even pass in most states. This does not mean they are citizens, voters, or maybe even tax payers, this only means the same residency laws apply to everyone in terms of higher education, closing the educational gap between citizens and immigrants which is what we should be working towards!

  14. It hard to hear about the statistics of low income and ow tax payers do not want to support those that need help. Then, the Dream Act is brought forth to allow illegal students that went to school in the same state to try and better themselves thru education and their families. But in reality, by voting against the Dream Act, college tuition is outrageous for OUT-OF-STATE. I can see the price as well as not knowing if the degree can be used do to citizenship can be a decision maker about college. By denying students the ability to pay in-state college fees, the education system is pushing people back into poverty and the lower tax brackets. Take into consideration that some of these students may even had high GPA’s in high school and are looking at becoming doctors, lawyers, nurses, and other valued careers that this nation needs. When I watched the documentary, It made me upset and angry to the fact that this nation can be so biased. I thought that the only true Americans were Native Americans and we all know how that ended. government is still paying on that hardship that the NAtive American people went thru. Kyle, you are so right on with the internet. That is a good reflection on how the political parties work as well.

  15. No, if i were a student who had come to this country legally, i would assume that it wouldn’t seem fair to give children of illegal aliens the right to go to college while paying in state tuition. I can definitely understand where they are coming from because of the extensive amount of work they probably had to do to be able to become a citizen and go to school here. But at the same time it isn’t really fair to the children of illegal aliens because they didn’t have a say in the decisions their parents made. At the same time, students who came here legally probably feel that if they put all their effort into becoming a citizen, then children of illegals should too. This really is a difficult situation, and unfortuately one where there can’t be a solution that would please everyone.

  16. What’s terrible is that over 65,000 students will not have the opportunity to get an education. Our country gives the students a visa to go to school find forces them so leave after they finish, almost as if we are punishing these students. My mother was not a legal citizen when she came to America , she received her green card after her dad my father were married. I can’t imagine what I would be doing if I wasn’t finishing my degree because she didn’t have citizenship . It wasn’t until 2010 that my mother could afford her citizenship .
    Our country is in need of bilingual people in various jobs, yet these jobs are only available to citizens of our country, which means you have to pay a lot of money to the government that tells you they don’t want you here. We cant complain over people on welfare if we continue to keep people from attaining higher education that will keep them out of poverty .
    This is the reason they come to this country, to get the American dream. Being a Hispanic female , I do believe these options should be open to all students, but I also believe that this should include all the other aspects of being an American citizen , if you work you must pay taxes just like everyone else. The problem with this is that many of these students were born here and all they have ever known is the American way.

    I read William ayers (City kids City schools) chapter on a boy who was a high achieving student with a good paying job, but his boss convinced him to stay and work instead of going to college. Being punished for wanting a better life doesn’t make sense, but there should be some limitations to this education visa , just like in other countries.
    I almost feel like this has to do with fear , we fear what we don’t understand. Instead of trying to understand we judge, ridicule, and push others away.

  17. I think that allowing students who are not considered citizens but fall under the categories specified and are here to try and get an education is a wonderful thing. In my mind it doesn’t make sense to make them pay out of state tuition because they have been living in the state just like the rest of the people who are getting in state tuition. For most of these people, they were probably brought here by their parents with or without their consent. I don’t think that we should be the ones to say that they don’t deserve a chance at success and happiness, if they feel that school will help them achieve that.

  18. I feel these illegal students should have the same rights through the Dream Act. The Dream Act is quite a lengthy process, not compared to becoming a legal citizen of the US, but I feel it is enough of a process that the people who want it, and who want to work for it, should get it. I don’t think its fair to withhold higher education from anyone. I feel this country could use more of an “were all in this together” out look, and the Dream Act could be a small step towards that.

  19. I do believe that tuition and educational equality is something that we should strive for in this country. It does not seem fair to hold children who have worked hard and are trying their best to live the life that has been given to them accountable for choices their parents made. If they have demonstrated the desire to go to college and done the work previously to show they should be successful, then I think they have earned that right regardless of their citizenship status. I also feel as though an issue many people have with illegal immigrants is that they feel they are not contributing to society in the way they are supposed to. If we give the children an opportunity for higher education, I believe it would help alleviate this part of the issue. Who knows what these children can accomplish in helping solve this problem, especially since they have experienced the struggles of being an illegal immigrant first hand and have a perspective that most college graduates do not.
    In an excerpt, “No Future Without Forgiveness,” Desmond Tutu talks about how the act of retaliation creates an endless cycle that hinders progress, and people are reduced to spitefulness and fill their minds with retribution instead of the ability to forgive and move forward. I agree that at some point to make progress, somebody has to be the bigger person and decide to forgive, and work towards making the situations we have been dealt into the best they can be. Instead of holding these children back because of how they got here, providing them with opportunities for education is a step forward for our country.

  20. Please Note: The particular response to the related issue was discussed on a different academic blog post.

    At first I was a bit confused by the articles I’ve read on it supposed to fit with the wordpress blog, until I realized the subject matter was relating to equal opportunity for all. The readings for this week described the constant struggle for global equity and the sacrifices those that pursue equal justice and prosperity. And tuition equity in the State of Oregon is no different…it entails illegal students who have performed academically well in high school, should be given the opportunity to pay in-state tuition since it was no fault of their own coming here with their parents. The problem arise when student immigrants who came here legally, with high achieving scores in their country that qualified to attend an American University, still need to pay international tuition rates. I think this is unfair. If an international student with high achieving grades wants to study in America, particularly in Oregon, they should be given the same opportunity to pay in state tuition as well as illegal immigrants with outstanding academic record. Non-profit universities are supposed to enlighten minds and global citizenship of all achieving students so that they can lead a productive life, not widen their pockets. Equal justice, economic growth and prosperity and education, along with tuition equity for all.

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