Immigrant students won’t let Congress stop them from going on to higher education at “DREAM University”, launched yesterday with 27 students outside the White House. As the larger debate over immigration reform stalls in the Senate, students are continuing to draw attention to the greatest casualty of this country’s broken policies: children of undocumented immigrants. The DREAM Act would allow children who came here with their parents illegally the opportunity to go to college and have a path to citizenship. They should not be punished for their parents desire to raise them in a better place, and our society should not suffer by denying them an education because of bad policies.
DREAM University opened its doors to the inaugural class of immigrant students receiving free lectures and workshops as a symbol for what this country and themselves stand to gain if the bill passes. Classes are taught by volunteer professors, in a similar way to the 1960s teach-ins. The goal is for students to attend 20 classes in various subjects, all for free. Of course, the classes will not translate into college credit – but they are based on the premise that no one should be denied the opportunity to learn. During breaks students will likely make their way over to Congress for a little lobbying. Organizers expect the event to be ongoing until we see movement from Congress. Explaining the inspiration for the action, Carlos Saavedra, coordinator for United We DREAM said, “if we really wanted to make a point about education … we needed to literally build a university in different parts of D.C.”
According to an Associated Press report, students are expected to come from all over the country with students in Massachusetts and Denver and Los Angeles already raising funds for the trip. The “university” has assigned Residence Hall, Curriculum, and Admissions advisers, that are helping put it all together. The event is gaining traction on facebook, with over 450 confirmed guests and an active wall. Hopefully, one day soon these students will be able to attend one of the great accredited university’s the nation’s capitol has to offer.
Below is the press release from the National Immigration Forum which is organizing the United We DREAM Network, which is hosting the action:
July 14, 2010
DREAM University Spotlights Hurdles to Higher Education Experienced by Immigrant Youth
Washington D.C. – Hundreds of young immigrant students from across the country are gathering this month in Washington, D.C., to pressure Congress for swift passage of the DREAM Act, bipartisan legislation that will benefit talented undocumented immigrant kids who yearn to attend college or serve in the United States military.
Today, these young students will be part of the inaugural class of the “DREAM University”. The “DREAM University” is a forum for immigrant students who yearn for higher education but are denied access due to their immigration status. Young participants will not have to prove citizenship status in order to attend free lectures by educators and organizers.
“We congratulate these inspiring students for their courage and determination to bring national awareness to their struggle to access higher education and a fair opportunity to succeed,” said Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum and Chair of the Reform Immigration FOR America Campaign. “The DREAM Act is an integral component of comprehensive immigration reform and these young activists are key allies of the coalition fighting to fix our broken immigration system. “
Young immigrant students are the overlooked casualties of the immigration debate’s overheated rhetoric. They were brought to the U.S. as children through no fault of their own, were raised in America, educated in America and think of themselves as Americans. Many long to earn a college degree or serve the country in uniform but they face a dim future of dead-end jobs because they are stuck in a paperwork trap.
The DREAM Act addresses the purgatory-like status of these young immigrant students who are ready to give back to America – their home – through hard work and service. This bipartisan bill offers a practical solution. It defies common sense to put higher education out of reach for hard working immigrant students. Doing so won’t force them to leave our country—the only country they call home. It would, however force them to remain in the underground workforce while America is deprived of the increased economic productivity and tax revenues provided by a better-educated workforce.
“Congress should emulate the courage of these young people, set political gamesmanship aside and pass comprehensive immigration reform this year” added Noorani. “Unless Congress acts swiftly to address illegal immigration with pragmatic and long lasting solutions, some of our best and brightest immigrant students will have their potential cut short. The DREAM Act guards our nation’s investment in the education of its youth, and ensures that America will reap the benefits of those investments.”
For more information on the DREAM Act mobilization contact Tolu Olubunmi, United We DREAM Network.