Perspective on State DREAM Acts

October 31st, 2011 · 9 Comments

By Thailandia Alaffita

On Saturday, October 8th, Governor Brown signed the “California DREAM Act” into law. This was a great success for, not only California DREAMers, but for DREAMers all around the nation, for one success means we are one step closer to our ultimate goal which is the DREAM Act.

Is this confusing to anyone?

With elections around the corner, politicians are back on their toes, and trying all kinds of schemes to get the people’s votes. The Latino vote is a very important and crucial one for all politicians, especially those with big Latino populations such as Texas and California. This might be tough to believe, but we are not all undocumented which means that some of us (a lot of us) can vote. And those of us who can’t vote are working determinedly to register people to vote. Surprise!

The DREAM Act has had a hard time becoming a law, and it will continue to, but that is another story. Different state DREAM Act advocate groups have focused on making their specific state more immigrant friendly and more accepting of DREAMers specifically. With the DREAM Act being something far-fetched, politicians are seeking ways to win the Latino vote and what better way than passing state DREAM Acts?

Being a Texan, I have had the luxury to attend college, and graduate from college, all paying in-state tuition. It was a bill that was signed into law before I graduated from high school, and that luckily, despite tireless efforts from my fellow Aggie conservatives, was not overturned before I graduated college. With that said, I never once called this bill the Texas DREAM Act, mainly because it is not!

During one of my many rants about what the DREAM Act is and what in-state tuition is to a new member of our organization, I was interrupted by an old member telling me that in-state tuition was NOT HB1403, SB1528, nor in-state tuition, but rather the Texas DREAM Act (this only after California passed their DREAM Act).

“Why doesn’t Texas pass its own DREAM Act like California did?” This new member asked. Well, simply because California didn’t pass a DREAM Act! And we all remember what happened in February when Utah attempted to give their undocumented population permits to work. It didn’t happen! Why? Because “this was something that should not be a state issue”.

I must add that I am not undermining all the hard work of my beloved Californian brothers and sisters in the struggle, simply that we should not call this a DREAM Act. As activists in the movement, we all know what we’re fighting for. In a nutshell, the DREAM Act is a bi-partisan piece of legislation that would allow the children of undocumented immigrants to succeed and fully become a part of this country by putting them on a path to legalization if they fill certain criteria. In simpler terms, the DREAM Act would allow us to finish school and not hit another wall; it would allow us to continue our lives and legally work in the country. The equivalent of the DREAM Act at a state level would be if the states passed some sort of legislation like the one Utah tried to pass, a piece of legislation that would allow these students to work legally (at least in their state) post graduation.

Although California has taken a milestone step by passing what is in-state tuition for them, it is important to let people know that Governor Brown has passed only a part of what is our full dream. The first part is called in-state tuition and the second part is called DREAM Act. Titles are important and can often be misleading; it might seem like we getting something done for the DREAM Act but the truth is, coming from a DREAMer who got the benefits of in-state tuition, we are still in limbo without the DREAM Act.

Tags: Education · Immigration

9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Anthony T // Oct 31, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    What a beautiful story and so true. It’s only a matter of time before we pass the DREAM Act. Hopefully sooner than later.

  • 2 Don Honda // Nov 1, 2011 at 9:36 am

    You are correct.

    And here’s how AB 131, California “DREAM Act”, does not help anyone:

  • 3 Anna // Nov 1, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    I don’t want to be mean, but why give in state tuition to people who are not legally allowed to work here?

  • 4 Thay Alaffita // Nov 1, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Anna – that is a continuous battle, this is why we must pass the DREAM Act and not JUST in-state tuition in states, although in-state tuition is important. As of now, the only hope we have as undocumented students is affording a higher education if we are in a state that provides in-state tuition.

    Don Honda – Thank you for sharing this article! It’s great (although I would ask the author to drop the I-Word :))

    Anthony T. – Soon, brother! Soon. The DREAM Act is a just cause and law, no unjust law can go on forever.

  • 5 Dream the Impossible // Nov 1, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Well, it seems like it’s a matter of opinion. Why give in-state tuition to students who have been in the state just as long as other students? Crazy, huh?

  • 6 Anna // Nov 2, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    You didn’t answer my question. Actually, I incorrectly used the term in-state tuition, when I really meant tax payer funded student aid. Why are we providing tax payer funded aid to people who are not legally allowed to work here once they graduate? I know it only amounts to less than 1% of all state aid, but what’s the point? These students are allowed by law to apply for private sources of aid, so why go after the shrinking pool of state aid?

    And why are they calling this the Dream Act? The Dream Act is about a path to citizenship, which has nothing to do with this bill.

    Getting so tired of this…

  • 7 Anon E. Moose // Nov 4, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Anna, I am a DREAMer. I was undocumented but have been attempting to gain legal status since before I started High School. My parents have since become legal residents/citizens and so have most of my brothers and sisters. They have been paying taxes and since I cannot legally work they have subsequently been paying for my tuition. They have also been contributing to the tuition of others in this state.

    So when you ask, why should we be giving in state tuition to people who cannot work after graduation…the answer is simple. Because there are those that are in my situation that are not going to stay undocumented.

    I could have easily been a burden on society, go out sell drugs, do crime and cause harm. Or, I could just continue to educate myself in the hopes that I will soon gain legal status.

    For the record, I am now in grad school doing research and have managed to publish in my field. Something that I may not of had the opportunity to do if I was not allowed to pay in-state tuition.

    Furthermore, while we may not be able to work it does not mean that we are not able to contribute. We can contribute in more than one way, I like to believe that I am contributing by advancing my field of research which boils down advancing everyday life for everyone.

    Now imagine how much more not only I could contribute but thousands of other students across the United States that are in my situation if a DREAM act would pass. Exciting isn’t it?!

  • 8 Anna // Nov 9, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    State money for student aid is diminishing while the cost of tuition is increasing. Sorry, but that money is for citizens and legal residents. The state allows undocumented students to attend public universities and now the state has to pay their tuition too? Any of these students could be deported at any time, and frankly, I do not see the Dream Act or immigration reform passing as long as Obama stands opposed. Undocumented students are allowed to apply for private sources of aid and should be encouraged to do so.

  • 9 Katia // Jan 26, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    This comment is coming late but I am hoping to engage with Anna.

    Anna, I hope you can help me out. I work at a high school and try to help my students go to college regardless of their citizenship status. Why should place of birth determine access to higher education which is recognized internationally as a critical right? Birthplace is chance. And if anyone told you that undocumented immigrants are not taxpayers, they were incorrect. Numerous credible scholars and economists have proven that immigrants pay the taxes– property tax, sales tax, payroll etc.– that pay for public education. Not to mention our social security would be gone right now if it werent for the undocumented immigrants paying out of paychecks with false social security numbers who never collect any benefits. This has been accumulating for decades. We dont even need to get into how much immigrants help our economy.

    Now, I mentioned I want your help. You said that Undocumented students are allowed to apply for private sources of aid, but I have only found a few that accept undocumented students and the applications are very competitive. The grand majority of private grants and scholarships require at least residency. Could you help me find the ones you are referring to so I can direct my students? I want to encourage them. Right now they are feeling pretty rejected because there is no state aid, federal aid, loans, jobs paying living wage, or selection of private scholarships.

    Thank you for your help!

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