Educators put students first in immigration reform debate

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by Félix Pérez

Never mind the long-winded remarks from members of Congress and the twists and turns of the law-making process. For educators such as Lee Carlson of St. James, Minnesota, the congressional debate about immigration reform boils down to one overriding concern: providing a future to hardworking students for whom America is the only home they have ever known.

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Carlson described the struggles of a “gifted and dedicated” student who wanted nothing more than to pursue her dream of a college education. “She was our Homecoming Queen, in the National Honor Society, and involved in extracurricular sports and arts.” Her saving grace for the time being: the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that gives qualified DREAMer students temporary legal residency so they can study and work.

The bipartisan immigration reform bill currently in the Senate provides DREAMer students a five-year road map to citizenship and emphasizes family unification. Non-DREAMers — 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.

The full Senate is expected to take up the bill, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, next month. The legislation marks the first comprehensive reform of the nation’s patchwork immigration system in more than 25 years.

The time is now for reform, says Mary Bonnie Bray, a Los Angeles high school teacher. Bray said the country cannot afford to waste the “infinite potential” of former students of hers like Griselda.

Fluent in three languages, Griselda earned top grades in high school while working as a seamstress. “When I asked her which university she was going to attend, she sadly answered, ‘I plan to keep working as a seamstress. With no papers, I can’t go to an American university. I dream of becoming a teacher, but I probably will always be a seamstress.’ ”

Nearly 60,000 DREAMer students graduate from U.S. high schools every year.

Reader Comments

  1. What about us? I am an international student and I am a Civil Engineer and my husband has his PhD. I guess the American Government just wants us to get our degrees and go back home. This is what we get for following all the rules and staying legal for the last 10 years. I mean I never demanded anything from the US government. But if all these people are getting it why not us? I and my husband left home and came here on our own when we were 18. Our parents invested on our education and we have a degree now. But provided the opportunity we would love to stay here and contribute to the US government.

  2. Those who would support illegal immigration, also support breaking the law as it currently stands. There is no justification suitable to allow for illegal immigration regardless of age or circumstance. There are millions of people across the world who like in poverty, and suffer in many ways but are not attempting to enter the United States illegally. There is a process and a legal path forward for anyone who would like to become a legal and nationalized American. Anything short of that is unacceptable.

  3. It is important that all immigrants wait their turn and pay fees to enter the United States. Many of these immigrants change their names, break the law, and take advantage of the system. It is true that many of these illegal students are at top universities getting everything paid by the tax payer. When they graduate, it becomes evident that they are illegal! I do not think it is right to help illegal immigrants unless they have American born children. I think helping these children is a benefit to America because they are Americans. I believe being a citizen should be a prequistite to any state help for college. Citizens that will help this country is what we should be supporting, not illegal immigrants whose alligence is to other countries. My experience has been that some of these students will not pledge alligence to the American Flag; yet, enjoy a free education, free lunch, and free medical services, What are they giving our country in return? American provides aid to all and these illegal immigrants who take all they services for free should be required to pay back loans, pay back aid by work in non-profit angencies etc. They only students that should be benefitting from my taxes should be citizens. Thank you,

  4. To whom it may cencern:

    I am NOT in support of this immigration reform at all! Our governement an NEA want to reward criminal behavior. Or, change the laws in order to circumvent illegal aliens that have entered our country illegally. This is unethical, immoral, demonstrates a lack of character and certainly shows poor leadership.

    My wife entered this country legally by paying the K-3 Immigration fees and waiting and approval of her her K-3 Visa and green card from Thailand.

    Illegals need to leave the country, wait their turn, pay fees, and wait for the legal documentation to enter our country. Anything else is criminal.

    Sincerely,

    John Grubb

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