Young immigrants rally to support legislation on college assistance
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 12, 2007

 Monica Alonzo-Dunsmoor

About 30 local high school students gathered on the state Capitol lawn Sunday and rallied for a shot at an affordable education.

The students are pushing Congress for approval of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM Act, which would let students who entered the country illegally as children to legalize their immigration status and qualify for in-state tuition and financial aid.

Lawmakers from California and Florida recently reintroduced the DREAM Act in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.
"We want to let the community know . . . we need their support," said Marina, an 18-year-old senior at Carl Hayden Community High School. "It's something wonderful for students. If they want us to integrate into society, we need this opportunity. It's for students who care about their education and want to contribute to their country."

Marina has lived in the United States since she was 7.

"We know no other country," she said.

Students asked that their last names not be used because of their immigration status.

Some of the students pushing for approval of the federal, bipartisan measure are members of Carl Hayden's award-winning robotics program, which this weekend won the Arizona Regional Chairman's Award for the third time. Those inner-city students have garnered national attention for their repeat victories at national competitions, even over prestigious colleges such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"If given the opportunity, these students are tomorrow's scientists, engineers and business leaders," Marina said. "They need the opportunity."

CADENA, a grass-roots community organization, is leading a campaign to promote the DREAM Act because it says the act will remove the obstacles in the way of students' success.

As it now stands, the Arizona Board of Regents gave universities permission to implement Proposition 300, a voter-approved initiative that prevents undocumented residents from getting in-state tuition.

Students who want in-state tuition but don't apply for federal financial aid must present an Arizona driver's license issued after 1996, a passport or a birth certificate.

Out-of-state tuition costs about three times more than what Arizona residents pay.

"Over the years, an educated student will put more taxes back into the economy," said Jose, 17, a Carl Hayden student.

"It will allow us to continue our education and pursue our dreams. You hear people talking about going to a university. . . . I wish I could have had the same opportunity. The children brought into this country didn't have a choice."

Laurita Moore, who works at South Mountain Community College, said the DREAM Act deserves support from everyone, especially from the baby boomer generation.

"I'm one of the baby boomers," she said. "And if we don't support it because it's the right thing to, because the students are working hard and deserve this opportunity, we should do it out of self-interest. The baby boomer generation is going to need the professional services these children will provide."

Reach the reporter at (602) 444-2478.