Bill would educate illegal students
April 19, 2004

By Jacqueline Shoyeb
Legislation in U.S. Senate would make students residents

Biochemistry freshman Karina Ruiz is different from most other ASU students -- according to the U.S. government, she doesn't exist.

She is 4 feet 11 inches tall with wide, almond-shaped eyes. Wearing jeans and a T-shirt, Ruiz resembles many of her fellow classmates, but the United States doesn't recognize her as a citizen of the country.

Ruiz is among millions of undocumented students whose future in the United States could be decided with a bill in the U.S. Senate.

If passed, the bill would give undocumented high school graduates who entered the country before they were 16 years old conditional residency and allow states to let them pay in-state tuition for college.

"It wasn't our choice to be illegal and we shouldn't be punished for wanting an education," Ruiz said. "That's not a crime."

Students would also need to have lived in the country for at least five years.

About 150 people, including ASU students, attended a rally in Chandler on Sunday morning to support the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2003, or DREAM Act.

The rally, which also drew anti-DREAM Act demonstrators, is part of a weeklong national effort to get the bill passed, said Judy Flanagan, an immigration lawyer.

"It's a chance for them to move on with their education and do something for this country, and reinvest back to this country what we've invested in their education," Flanagan said.

After attending college for at least two years or serving in the military for two years, students would then be eligible for permanent residency.

"It's going to affect a lot of them who right now have reached that point where they're [high school] seniors and they've reached this barrier," said Veronica Ochoa, a psychology and fine arts senior.

Dorelyn Kunkel, founder of CADENA, a grassroots organization that organized the rally, said she knows all too well the need for the DREAM Act. Kunkel worked with bilingual children who had no hope of attending college or improving their lives because they were illegal.

Alongside the banners and signs at the rally stood a group of anti-DREAM Act demonstrators.

"We're protesting the DREAM Act because we think it's very unfair to citizens who are paying out-of-state tuition," said Tempe resident Annette Hoffman. "It's not constitutional and it has nothing to do with race. I really think they should all be deported."

Ruiz, who has been here for more than five years, said she's staking her future on the bill.

"We want to live and work in this country, for this country," she said as supporters chanted "Yes, it can be done!"

"I want that chance," she said.

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