- Category: Volume 85 (Fall 2013 - Spring 2014)
- Published: 12 March 2014
- Written by KATIE MEYER STAFF WRITER
In his State of the Union address in January, President Barack Obama declared that it was time for Congress to pass immigration reform legislation yet Democrats and Republicans cannot seem to agree on the correct way to go about changing immigration policy. And this has caused legislation to stall including legislation that will affect college students.
Part of this indecision comes from Senate and House Republicans, who claim that they do not trust Obama to follow through on tighter border security and to enforce laws that are passed. Speaker John Boehner seemed enthusiastic to work on immigration reform, but has also expressed his concern that this bill, if put to a vote in the House, will not pass because many Republicans in the House are up for midterm elections according to The Washington Times. A recent poll showed that voters in Iowa would not vote for a Republican candidate that supported immigration reform. Like most of the legislation these past few years, the vote is being left up to the states.
One of the reforms that is being left up to the states is a bill called the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) act.
The DREAM Act gives college students, who are in the US illegally, monetary help for college tuition. Students applying for the DREAM Act must meet a list of requirements to qualify for any kind of monetary aid. Some of the requirements include having entered the US before the age of 16, living in the US five years before the bill was enacted in that state, and having completed high school, obtaining the GED or is attending college.
There is a screening process for the DREAM Act, and not everyone receives funding; it is similar to applying for a scholarship for college. Certain requirements (monetary, grades, GPA, recommendations) must be met before you can get approval. So far, 14 states have passed the DREAM Act. According to Paul Dement, the Director of Community and Government Relations at the University, “There are currently 14 states that have their own versions of the DREAM Act, which deal with tuition prices and financial aid for state universities. These states are TX, CA., IL., UT, NE., KA., NM, NJ, NY, WA., WI., MA., Md, and MN. The Md DREAM Act was approved by state-wide ballot, winning 59 percent of the vote on November 6, 2012. New Jersey passed the law and it was signed by the Governor on December 19th, 2013.”
Dement said that the DREAM Act has been passed from one Congress to another since its introduction in 2001. “The act would affect roughly 2.1 million children and teens, according to immigrationpolicy.org.” Dement said. “U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has stated that passing the DREAM Act will allow “these young people to live up to their fullest potential and contribute to the economic growth of our country.” In particular, according to the White House website, the DREAM Act will play an important role in the nation’s efforts to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020, something that is vital for America to remain competitive in today’s global economy.”
Dr. Eleanor Novek, an associate professor of communication, who teaches Gender, Race and the Media, said, “For undocumented young people who entered the US as children, it (the DREAM Act) means a chance to achieve citizenship in a reasonable amount of time if they complete two years of college or two years of military service.”
It is true. One of the DREAM Act’s main goals is to give immigrant students a chance to give back to the community they grew up in, according to dreamact.info/students. When the DREAM Act passed in Washington state last month, students were quoted as saying to reporters that the passing of the bill, “means the world” to them because it gives them a chance to live out their dreams. Daniel Roman, a junior political science major said, “The DREAM Act is going to have a great impact on college students. Many immigrant kids will now have the ability to attend college, and having a more diverse campus is going to be beneficial not just to minority students, but for everyone.”
Last month, the DREAM Act passed in New Jersey and was signed into law by Governor Chris Christie. This means that immigrant students who live in New Jersey and are looking to apply to in-state universities will be able to pay in-state tuition fees. Governor Christie threw his support behind the bill before his re-election in November, but was recently quoted as saying that he opposed the clause that included financial aid for immigrant students. Ultimately, the DREAM Act passed in New Jersey without the financial aid clause.
Claire Lasio, Director of Financial Aid said, “There is no direct impact to MU students, as we are an independent institution and thus not subject to the provisions of the DREAM Act with regard to tuition. An undocumented student at MU would, however, be eligible to apply for state aid (TAG grant) just the same as any other student. There will also be an indirect, adverse impact on all MU students in that the Governor has not indicated in his budget where the funds to cover TAG grants to DREAM Act students will come from. It stands to reason that if there are more students eligible for the same amount of funds, the awards will be decreased for all.” Democratic leaders have promised to continue to fight for immigrant students so that they may apply and be eligible for state and government financial aid and “I was very surprised that the DREAM Act passed in New Jersey,” said Roman. “I was positive that Christie would veto it.”
Roman and a few others suspect that Governor Christie signed the bill because he is courting minority votes. It is true that during the last leg of his campaign, Governor Christie was quoted saying that he supported “tuition equality,” but was very vague as to how he would go about fixing tuition equality Roman suspects that Governor Christie signed the bill because he still has his eye on the White House in 2016. Whether or not this is true, remains to be seen regardless, the DREAM Act will be going into effect within the next few months.
For now it seems, immigrant students have a win on their side. They can apply for in-state tuition costs and financial aid. The next immigration debate to hit the state legislatures will be whether or not illegal immigrants can apply for a driver’s license. It has been acknowledged that many illegal immigrants apply for driver’s licenses using false identification, and they are uninsured. States are now considering allowing illegal immigrants to apply for legal identification so that they can pay car insurance, and make the roads a little safer for everyone.