Immigrants children press education rights at Harvard
Vow to challenge US laws blocking access to college
By Jenna Russell,
AMBRIDGE -- A dozen Massachusetts high school students rallied at the gates of
Harvard Yard yesterday, vowing to fight the laws that threaten to block their
access to a college education.
The students, all children of illegal immigrants, didn't want to give their
names, for fear that their families would be targeted by immigration officials.
With the help of the Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition, which
organized yesterday's event, they are pushing for passage of new laws that will
allow them to seek legal status in their adopted country, and qualify for
in-state college tuition rates.
Four of the students will travel to Washington, D.C., this week to lobby members
of Congress to pass proposed federal legislation, the Development, Relief and
Education for Alien Minors Act, also known as the DREAM Act.
''We are here, and we didn't choose to be here,'' said one of the students, a
17-year-old National Honor Society member from East Boston, whose family came to
Boston from Mexico three years ago. ''There are two decisions the government can
make -- to deny us an education, and have us be their janitors, or to give us an
education, so we can have good jobs, be successful, and contribute to the
Between 50,000 and 65,000 graduates of American high schools each year are the
children of illegal immigrants who have been in the United States five years or
longer, according to the coalition. Since 1996, a federal immigration law has
required public universities to charge foreign-born students out-of-state
tuition -- which can be three times more than in-state rates -- if they cannot
provide a green card.
The group's leaders said the new federal law would allow those who arrive before
age 16, stay at least five years, and graduate from high school to apply for
conditional legal status, and would grant them access to in-state tuition. Their
status would become permanent upon graduation from college.
A similar legislative proposal in Massachusetts proved controversial earlier
this year, with state Senator Guy Glodis, an Auburn Democrat, calling it a
''giveaway'' that would diminish the value of being a citizen.
Students at the Harvard gates yesterday shared dreams of careers in journalism,
business, architecture, and veterinary medicine. A Chelsea mother who came to
the United States from Guatemala 15 years ago, and now works as a convenience
store manager, said the thought that her children will not go to college brings
her to tears. ''It's my dream and their dream,'' she said.
A recent high school graduate from Brockton said she applied to four schools in
Massachusetts, and was told she would pay out-of-state tuition and would not
receive a diploma upon graduation. Born in Brazil and fluent in English,
Spanish, and Portuguese, she said she wants to be a nurse and a hospital
''I could help a lot of people,'' she said. ''In the future, this country is
going to need us to do things.''
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.