Colleges, universities join immigration reform movement for DREAMer students


by Félix Pérez

Leaders, faculty and students at America’s colleges and universities — joining a growing movement of educators, students, parents, community leaders and religious figures — are speaking out on the pressing need for common sense immigration reform, arguing that inaction robs bright, highly motivated DREAMer students of the chance to pursue their aspirations and help advance the nation’s economy.

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More than 75 higher education institutions held events and rallies on campuses across the country last Friday to call on Congress to pass legislation. The “Day of Action” took place in 35 states and the District of Columbia.

In a letter to their higher education colleagues, Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University, Eduardo Padrón, president of Miami Dade College, and David Skorton, president of Cornell University, wrote:

Many foreign-born students arrived in our country as children but are prevented from attending college because of their undocumented status. As we deny young people in our country who are qualified to attend college access to higher education, we deny our country the talent we very much need.

Some 60,000 DREAMer students graduate from U.S. high schools every year. The bipartisan immigration legislation introduced by the “Gang of Eight” senators last week contains a provision that provides a five-year path to citizenship for DREAMers who arrived in the United Sates before the age of 16 and have completed high school or earned a GED.

The bill, also known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, makes improvements on current law by prioritizing family unification and increasing training, personnel and resources for immigration courts. Individuals in the United States prior to December 31, 2011, will have a 13-year pathway to citizenship provided they pass a background check, show a grasp of basic English, and pay any assessed tax liability, fees and a $500 fine.

Higher education officials point out that the costs to the economy of our broken immigration system are profound. More than three out of every four patents (76%) that the top 10 U.S. patent-producing universities received in 2011 had an immigrant inventor.

The Day of Action came three days before Monday’s Senate hearing on the legislation. The lone DREAMer to testify at the committee hearing was Gaby Pacheco, who wants to be a teacher. Pacheco has three education degrees and plans to open a music therapy center for children with mental disabilities.

DREAMer Gaby Pacheco testifies at Senate hearing
DREAMer Gaby Pacheco testifies at Senate hearing

“My family reflects the diversity and beauty of America. We are part of a strong working class; a mixed-status family who are your neighbors, classmates, fellow parishioners, consumers, and part of the fabric of this nation,” Pacheco told the senators.

Pacheco, the highest ranking junior ROTC student at her Florida high school and former president of Florida’s junior college student government, was singled out by Senator Dick Durbin, Ill., for her years-long advocacy on behalf of DREAMer students across the country and in the halls of Congress. “Gaby Pacheco has been such an important part of this effort on passing the DREAM Act,” said Durbin, whose mother emigrated from Lithuania. “The DREAM Act is where it is because of the courage of young people like yourself.”

Reader Comments

  1. My parents came here legally on a work visa and eventually got a green card. No we did not have a tourist visa and let it expire like most illegal immigrants have done. I graduated from high school with honors, and now I am studying at Ivy League. I don’t care if you have a daughter who is a valedictorian or a perfect SAT. The fact of the matter is that you are here illegally, and I am very thankful that the House of Representatives will smack down this bill, as they rightly should do. You need to understand that there are those who came here legally and studied hard, earning top grades. What gives your daughter the right to take their spot at a prestigious university?

  2. I have been following this case and I am very proud of you, Gaby Pacheco, for your courage and strenght to be in the open.

    I came here to the US as a teacher, hired by the district from my country, in 2001. I came on a J1 visa for 3 years and granted an H1 after that. As of this date, I am still on H1, renewed it for the fourth time. My status as H1, of course, makes my children on H4, my dependents. I have two daughters, 17 and 14 respectively. My 17-year old is graduating from high school this May, 2013, as a Valedictorian.

    My sentiments, though, is that being an H4 makes her inilligible to any Financial Aid support. I totally understand the legality of that, but I’m just disappointed that my daughter couldn’t even get the chance to go to a university of her choice to pursue her dreams. You see, I’ve been educating American children for 12 years now, yet, my own children can’t be educated due to immigration policies.

    I wish that children like mine can also be granted the same opportunities as anyone else.

    Thank you!

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