Facebook Twitter

DREAM Act: Student activist makes it personal

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Student activist María Marroquín is deeply involved in the fight for getting the DREAM Act approved. This is a vital issue for her, an undocumented student majoring in political science.

She was instrumental in Senator Arlen Specter’s public support of the 2009 DREAM Act, a bill that has yet to make its way down to the floor for a vote.

Marroquín is part of DREAM Activist, a network of people working to make this bill a reality, which will help many immigrants who came to this country when they were still children.

An approval would give thousands of undocumented immigrants attending U.S. high schools the chance to enroll in college or enlist in the U.S. Army.

Advocates think that every year some 60,000 undocumented immigrant students graduate from high school. Most of those graduates cannot further their studies because colleges and universities require Social Security numbers and most fellowships and scholarships have citizenship or residency as a requisite.

Also, undocumented immigrants are subject to out-of-state tuition rates.

There are currently two bills, one in the Senate and one in Congress, but the DREAM Act has four basic requirements:

  • You entered the country before the age of 16;
  • You graduated high school or obtained a GED;
  • You have good moral character (no criminal record); and
  • You have at least five years of continuous presence in the US.

As Marroquín says in her video, DREAM Act beneficiaries would have a positive impact on society as a whole.

Recently the Immigration Policy Center issued their “Back to the Future: The Impact of Legalization Then and Now” report in which, among many other things, they highlight the importance of the DREAM Act.

“…legalization allows undocumented children to become students with a future who can attend college under the same rules as other children. The “DREAM Act” — which would allow undocumented kids who were brought to the United States by their parents to legalize their status and go to college — must be part of comprehensive immigration reform. Third, U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants would not have to fear for their parents’ deportation and then have to choose between family and country.”

Philadelphia is no exception to this. According to the District’s most recent Language Survey, there are 13,500 students who were born abroad. It is likely that a great number of them won’t be able to further their education after they graduate.

If you are one of those students or know of someone in this situation, it would be good to learn more about this legislation and how you can get involved. You can contact DREAM Activist for more info.