Although comprehensive immigration reform seems unlikely in the lame-duck Congress or for that matter in the foreseeable future, one still possibility, as I have previously noted, is an effort by the Democrats, hopefully with some Republican support, to propose the DREAM Act.
This would allow a pathway to legalization and citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants who through no fault of their own were brought into the U.S. without papers. They have lived with the burden of their status as they have grown up. The legislation would require these individuals to stay in school, graduate from high school, and then attend college for at least two years or serve two years in the U.S. military. They then would become resident aliens with an opportunity to become U.S. citizens. The age limit to take advantage of this opportunity would be 35.
The human dimensions of the DREAM Act was recently brought to attention in a Los Angeles Times front-page story (Nov. 18) about Pedro Ram'rez, the student body president at Fresno State, who admitted that he was an undocumented immigrant. His farm working family when he was 3 years old brought him to California from Mexico. He did not know that he was undocumented until he began to apply for college when his parents told him. In the meanwhile, Pedro had worked hard in school, learned English and mainstream U.S. culture, and graduated valedictorian from his high school.
An anonymous tip to the college newspaper that Pedro was undocumented made Pedro admit this. Being an undocumented immigrant although having spent almost his entire life in the U.S. has not been easy for Pedro. When he knew that he was undocumented, he also knew that he could not get any federal college aid and therefore didn’t bother to apply. After being elected student body president this past June and as he enters his senior year as a Political Science major, Pedro was eligible to receive a stipend of $9000 for being student body president, but he turned it down since he does not have a Social Security number. School officials note that Pedro did not break any law be running for this office and they will not ask him to resign.
Pedro personifies the thousands of similar students who for all practical purposes are U.S. citizens but are not only because they happened to have been born in Mexico or Central America and brought over as babies or young children by their undocumented parents. Their anxieties and burdens need to be relieved by the passage of the DREAM Act. We need to show a moral compassion for these individuals.