Though you might have taken it for granted each time you jotted your social security number on a standardized test or a college application, you probably didn’t realize that those numbers were actually a pretty terrific privilege during the college process.
For high school students who went to high school in the U.S. as undocumented aliens (commonly referred to as illegal immigrants), higher education can seem like a nightmare. First, it’s tough to get loans and only ten states allow such students to pay in-state tuition rates. Second, despite working hard to get a degree, once an undocumented student graduates, without legal status, he or she is often left with few options in terms of finding a well-paying job.
Today, Congress is voting on the DREAM Act, which fights against this whole issue – and if you haven’t been paying attention, here’s a little crash course. Hold up. Before your mind glazes over at the words “Congress” and “Act,” this actually concerns campus life and it’s happening right before your eyes. They’re going to vote on it this very week. Come on, pay a little attention. At Indiana University, they even went on hunger strike about it.
If you’re unfamiliar, the DREAM Act stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act. If it’s passed, the Act would give undocumented students the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency if they finish two years of college (or if they serve in the military).
Let’s talk about why this is important: without the DREAM Act, countless numbers of high-achieving students who grew up in the U.S. without documentation can excel colleges, but likely won’t be able to get a job or contribute to the economy afterward. With those odds, it’s a pretty big gamble to enroll at all (and many students likely don’t). The DREAM Act therefore acts as an incentive to pursue higher education and would give a healthy boost to the economy (all good things). In general, it would encourage more educated, motivated students.
In all likelihood, a number of such students are probably at your school – even if you’re not aware of it. At my school of under 10,000 undergrads, five students confirmed being undocumented to the school paper.
Of course, choosing whether or not you support the Act is your call, but at least now you can’t say you didn’t know what it was all about.