Thursday, October 23, 2008

It has been a year...

I cannot believe that a year has now passed from DREAM Act's defeat in the Senate last year. It was a painful day, and it was painful for weeks after. I still get tears in my eyes thinking about that day. It gets harder every year, and especially as you get older. When I was eighteen and I had just heard about the DREAM Act from my laywer I was hopeful for its passage, but not so concerned about what it could mean for my future. I am now twenty-four years old, and the passage of the DREAM Act in the next two years will *decide* my future, at least in this country.

I graduated with a Bachelor's degree two years ago, and I have just begun to pursue my masters. It is strange being back in school after two years off. I feel like I am there for different reasons than so many of my fellow classmates. They are there to advance their career. I am there to buy time, as well as advance my career. Though first and foremost to buy time; so that the degree I already earned, tucked away in a drawer, isn't gathering dust and losing its value.

I am grateful that I can continue to pursue my studies. There are so many other DREAMers out there who just graduated high school and college who can't afford any higher education. Then there are the DREAMers who are under threat of deportation. The hopes and future of thousands of de-facto Americans who call this country their home rests on the passage of DREAM Act. I am hopeful with a new president the DREAM Act will become a reality. Hopefully by this time next year I'll be writing a very different entry.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Obama's Education Advisor Mentions DREAM Act

In Debate, Education Advisers to McCain and Obama Focus on K-12 Issues
During the course of three 90-minute debates between Barack Obama and John McCain over the past four weeks, the two presidential candidates faced only one question about their approach toward education.

That left lots of ground for their education advisers to cover when they squared off last night in their own 90-minute debate at Columbia University, in New York. Those wanting an elaboration of the candidates’ competing visions for higher education, however, were likely to have been disappointed once more.

The moderator, Susan H. Fuhrman, president of Teachers College at Columbia University, asked the two education advisers — Lisa Graham Keegan of the McCain campaign and Linda Darling-Hammond of the Obama campaign — only one question directly on the topic of higher education. Ms. Fuhrman spent a total of four minutes getting their answers, before moving back to other education topics.

In that four-minute span, the two advisers cited a few of the priorities for higher education that the candidates have highlighted on the campaign trail, as well as some issues that have received less attention.

Asked by Ms. Fuhrman how the country could “preserve access to higher education” given the nation’s economic turmoil, Ms. Keegan said that Mr. McCain, a Republican, wanted to do more to help high-school juniors identify the college they will attend.

By their junior year, programs should be in place so that students “are already being connected into high-level vocational training for life-sustaining skills work if that’s where they are headed, or they are already engaged with the community college or a university,” said Ms. Keegan, a former Arizona superintendent of public instruction.

Similar to what President Bush has tried unsuccessfully for several years, Ms. Keegan also called for combining dozens of federal higher-education grant programs. “All of these grant programs have got to be under one umbrella so that they are easy for families, they are accessible, there is transparent information about schools,” she said. “And that would create a much greater pool of money that’s available for them.”

Ms. Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford University, cited the often-repeated promise by Mr. Obama, a Democrat, to offer students the possibility of a $4,000 tax credit to pay for college. “That will pay about two-thirds of the cost of college at a public college or university, and will enable virtually all young people who are qualified, have made the grades and are ready to advance, be able to go to college,” she said.

Mr. Obama also wants to keep raising the amount of the Pell Grant “so that it more closely approximates what people actually have to pay” for college, said Ms. Darling-Hammond. And she said he supported passage of a federal “Dream Act,” one leading version of which would provide permanent legal residency for the children of illegal immigrants who finish two years of college or enroll in the armed forces.

Ms. Keegan later expressed Mr. McCain’s support for financing basic research, “primarily in the area of science and technology,” after Ms. Fuhrman asked the two advisers for the candidates’ opinion of federally backed research. Ms. Keegan also pointed out Mr. McCain’s oft-stated opposition to research projects in which Congress earmarks money for a specific institution.

Ms. Darling-Hammond took the question as referring to research on ways to improve education at the elementary and secondary level — an interpretation that reflected the overwhelming focus of the debate — and responded with a broad call for the federal government to help identify effective teaching strategies. —Paul Basken

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Local students help others reach education dreams

They have a DREAM

The bleak outlook on attaining legal status can be disheartening for all immigrants, but especially for students whose status and situation are unaccounted for in the current immigration system.

"For minors as well as anyone else, especially those from Mexico and Central America, 90 percent have no way of obtaining legal status, an example of why our system doesn't work," says Mark Silverman, director of immigration policy at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center of San Francisco.

Currently, undocumented people, including minors, can become legal either through an application filed by their employer, a family member with legal status — parents, siblings and spouses — or through the foster system, but Silverman points out that these people cannot work legally.

"These students don't have the route," he says. "That's the basic, current situation."

An estimated 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high schools in the United States every year. Without a route toward legal status, they are left with few options.

"All of these laws are technically designed for adults," says Lynette Parker, Santa Clara University clinical supervising attorney at the School of Law Katharine & George Alexander Community Law Center. "The kids either fall into one of four categories or they don't. There's just not much designed for young people."

This growing group of undocumented immigrants needs to be accounted for and given a chance to give back to their communities, Parker says.

"The economy needs an influx of young people," she says. "It needs their dreams, visions and willingness to put some muscle behind them because this huge generation that's aging and retiring cannot."

Silverman agrees.

"These students are our future. It would be a shame if society would squander this future."

Silverman is an advocate of the DREAM act, a law proposed to the U.S. Senate in 2005 that would allow undocumented students brought into the country as children the chance to gain permanent legal status.

However, he emphasizes that this act is no free ride.

These students would be given a six-year temporary residency during which they attend either a four-year or two-year college or serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Along with this, they would be required to complete and uphold other standards outlined in the act, including keeping a clean criminal record and performing up to 900 community service hours.

After the students completed their education or time in the armed forces, they would be given probationary permanent residency for six years and start down a path toward citizenship.

"It has had a lot of bipartisan support, including, at the time, by Sen. [John] McCain," Silverman says. "People may blame Cesar's parents, but how can they blame him? These kids didn't choose to be here."

Although the bill is stagnant at the moment and McCain is no longer a supporter, Silverman says there should be a better idea of its potential success in November when the country elects a new president.

"I want the DREAM act to be passed because I want these bright immigrant students to help pay my Social Security," he says.

To U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the plan of action is obvious.

"Basically, these young people are de facto Americans," Lofgren says. "They were raised and brought up in this country."

She says that the argument that these individuals shouldn't be rewarded with legal status for breaking the law is illogical.

"Amnesty presumes that you've committed some fault," she says, which doesn't work if the children are being brought here along with the family.

The arguments, Lofgren says boil down to one thing: "racism in America — and as a country, we're better than this."

Read the rest of the article here.