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I would tell you the story myself if I could.
May 27, 2009 10:21 PM   Subscribe

"Growing up, I never told anyone about not having my papers, but one day, just when I finished high school, I just had to tell people." The bi-partisan DREAM Act creates a path to citizenship for the estimated 65,000 undocumented youth who graduate high school each year. "Papers is the story of undocumented youth and the challenges they face as they turn 18 without legal status" (trailer). Alienated: Undocumented Immigrant Youth (video, 8 minutes).

House bill on THOMAS. Senate bill on THOMAS. College Board press release on the DREAM Act. Wikipedia.
posted by OverlappingElvis (29 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
College Board policy report on the issue.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 11:05 PM on May 27, 2009


While obviously this would be great for the kids already here, it actually provides another incentive for undocumented immigrants to come here -- they'll know their children will be able become citizens and take advantage of provisions for in-state students to go to college easily.

Of course, I don't really have a problem with that, in my view those kids would not only assimilate well over that time, but we need more people with college degrees as well. And frankly I'm not really a fan of borders in the first place, I actually think we should have an open border with Mexico and Canada like they have in the E.U. But it's easy to see how the Lou Dobbs types could freak out about this.
posted by delmoi at 11:22 PM on May 27, 2009


Just the other day I read a moving interview in my campus newspaper (California State University, Long Beach) of an undocumented student desperately struggling to make it by amidst developing panic attacks and mounting hardships. It could have been because it was from someone in my campus community, but it was easily one of my favorite articles the newspaper has printed.

Hopefully this link will work.

But if not then it can easily be read by going here, clicking on the big picture, and going to page 6.

Either way I reacted with deep concern at the unfair situation these students are placed in. As delmoi pointed out, I understand the concern of something like the DREAM act, but we're essentially discouraging higher education and melting pot assimilation. It just seems so damn un-american.
posted by Defenestrator at 11:40 PM on May 27, 2009


It's Lou Dobb's not-so-secret dream to have the poilce going around asking "Your papers please?" in a high-pitched faux German accent.
posted by GuyZero at 11:57 PM on May 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


The first time I heard about the DREAM Act was through Act 4 of This Episode of This American Life. It's a nice listen if you're interested.
posted by Arbac at 11:59 PM on May 27, 2009


The DREAM Act is also state legislation which accomplishes the same thing. In Minnesota, for example, a DREAM Act was passed by the state congress but vetoed by the Republican governor. He cited the cost, which is asinine for two separate reasons: (1) education investments get paid back fourfold when the graduate enters the job market and (2) most of the undocumented students affected would not be able to afford college otherwise.

But this is a moot point now-- the Minnesota DREAM Act was not reproposed this Congress session, in order to make things easier on the budget committee.
posted by shii at 12:42 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


The DREAM Act is also state legislation which accomplishes the same thing.

The State DREAM acts help kids go to college after graduating from local high schools as their peers would, but they can't grant citizenship to the kids after the graduate, only the federal government can do that.
posted by delmoi at 1:17 AM on May 28, 2009


I just don't see the downside. If they graduate from a US university, they're going to work here, and we could use more skilled and college-educated workers. I really, really, really hope this goes through because the we can collectively as a nation only benefit from it.
posted by spiderskull at 1:46 AM on May 28, 2009


I actually think we should have an open border with Mexico and Canada like they have in the E.U.

Don't assume Canada has any interest in this.
posted by srboisvert at 2:32 AM on May 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


Wow! I'm glad to see more media on this act. I'm actually trying to make a short radio story on local students at my high school who are experiencing this problem. I was about to post in Ask MeFi.

Anyway, in the research I've done so far I’ve seen a lot of common misconceptions about the act that keep people from supporting it…no one reads the actual legislation text anymore.

Delmoi--If I've read this stuff correctly, the act is meant to tailor toward a specific group of undocumented students in the US. There is an age cut-off for the bill, so you will have to have lived in the US a certain # of years prior to the bill's enactment and be under the age of 35 (?), etc. I can't remember the exact numbers right now.

It's also important to remember the screening process and safeguards…
-Confidentiality--immigrants do not put themselves at risk for deportation by applying. The DHS can’t remove anyone with a pending application or remove you for applying.
-Qualifying--they have to attend college/graduate/join the military within a 6 year period, as well as complete community service hours. And they may extend the conditional period if you can prove some sort of hardship that prevented you from doing the above.
-Taxes--During their 6-year conditional period, undocumented students will have essentially the same rights as a legal immigrant, so they will be issued tax IDs and the like, and pay taxes like everyone else.

It’s been proposed as part of larger reform bills and consequently rejected, so this is the third time (?) the issue is being brought up in Congress, only this time as a separate bill. There are a lot of other requirements and safeguards, but I think it's important to keep in perspective that this is tailored toward a specific demographic of alienated individuals and wouldn't encourage an influx of immigrants; it sort of operates on the assumption that immigration reform will happen within the next decade.

It is an amnesty bill in some senses, but these are students who didn’t necessarily come to the US voluntarily, have assimilated with American culture and are totally closed to many opportunities. Realistically I don’t think people have a problem obtaining primary and secondary education, it’s college that’s the problem. What a tease, to have gotten that far. It definitely affects the lives of illegal aliens in many ways beyond just education. Someone I interviewed told me that that “The most immediate effects of obtaining residency would be the ability to get a license and the ability to work. With the recession [his] family has been tight on money, and [he feels] exasperated at not being able to supplement the family income.” This guy is one of my peers—very intelligent, total aptitude for learning—and it’s ridiculous to know he might not be able to go to college. Gosh! I can’t stress how much I wish this bill would pass.

Anyway, seeing as I’ve got the credibility of…an adolescent, if you're interested I'd definitely the NILC site, too. http://www.nilc.org/immlawpolicy/DREAM/index.htm
posted by mmmleaf at 2:50 AM on May 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is excellent.

Oh, and fuck the minutemen.
posted by notsnot at 5:06 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Willem de Kooning was an illegal alien.

Politically irrelevant - but I always found it interesting.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:18 AM on May 28, 2009


If a person has grown up in a country, then a simple test of assimilation should suffice for citizenship, mainly how well they speak the language. I don't necessarily feel this should grant their parents citizenship or residency, but they'd gain the right to petition for residency for their parents when they were old enough.

I suppose the DREAM Act provides this "test of assimilation" by asking them to attend collage, i.e. they must have made money already, which seems kinda harsh, but way better than nothing.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:18 AM on May 28, 2009


I actually think we should have an open border with Mexico and Canada like they have in the E.U.

Don't assume Canada has any interest in this.
posted by srboisvert at 5:32 AM on May 28 [+] [!]


We don't have that big a stake in it, but there are a fair number of Canadians (and Americans) who have friends and family on both sides of the border, and being able to relocate with the minimum of fuss would be very helpful. Of course, I think Canada should join the EU, or at least the common market, so that we can diversify our trading partners, unite up with some fellow centrist monarchies, and also get some better cheese. But there is no reason we can't do both.
posted by jb at 6:43 AM on May 28, 2009


Related...
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:58 AM on May 28, 2009


delmoi: "I actually think we should have an open border with Mexico and Canada like they have in the E.U. But it's easy to see how the Lou Dobbs types could freak out about this."

A desire for totally open borders seems like it's mutually incompatible with a desire for free and universal healthcare, which a lot of people also feel strongly about. Unless you're willing to create some sort of two-tiered system, where you have free healthcare for citizens and greencard-holders, and let people who just walked across the border die in the streets, you'd end up providing healthcare to the entire Western hemisphere.

Public services here in the U.S. are already pretty strained; I don't see how that would be workable.

The problem with immigration policy is that there are a lot of groups with conflicting desires and goals. On one hand, virtually everyone agrees that we should be letting in highly-educated, high-skilled workers, because they generate vast amounts of wealth (I don't think even Lou Dobbs would disagree there). But when you move a bit further down the economic ladder, there's a clear incentive for employers to push for immigration so the labor market stays slack and salaries remain low, and for workers to push for a restrictive policy to keep the market tight. You start to see this in tech circles with the widespread hate for H1B "body shops." And at the very bottom of the ladder you have whole industries, especially agricultural and meat-packing ones, that have become dependent on abusing illegal laborers to maximize profit margins.

It's beyond dispute that we need immigration and immigrants to keep our economy moving, but it seems like a slack labor market, particularly at the low end, hurts workers and leads to a culture of exploitation. A complete 'open borders' policy seems like it would make this worse.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:22 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Just One Thing Missing," the story of a college student "with good grades, an excellent work ethic, but no possible way to get a legal job. She's lived in the U.S. since she was little, but [is undocumented]. Most of her friends and teachers don't even know." As reported by Douglas McGray, a fellow at the New America Foundation, on the radio program "This American Life" (program "329: Nice Work if You Can Get It," Apr. 6, 2007). (Click on the above link; then click on "Full Episode"; then fast-forward to minute 46:34.)

People act like "illegal aliens" all came here of their own free will. But there are countless individuals who were brought here as babies or small children. Many have siblings who are legal U.S. citizens, while their parents are not. Their parent's country of origin is as much a foreign country to them as it is to "real" U.S. citizens. But those who paint with broad brushes just want to send them all back to (wherever).

The record of our governmental "leaders" to address this is a travesty. Leaders lead. Politicians, on the other hand, see which way the wind is blowing before getting out of bed in the morning. They should be educating the public rather than pandering to them. A listen to the girl's story in the TAL episode above should be required listening, for anyone wishing to get a better grasp of the situation. She is far, far from alone.
posted by spock at 8:22 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


God, I hope this goes through. In general, I'm not as politically active as I could or should be, but I'd fight like hell for the DREAM act. But I'm a little biased, I suppose. I work as a college counselor in the inner-city and while most of the students I work with are African-American, I do have a few Latino kids.

There is one student in particular that comes to mind. Let's call him Luis. He's probably one of the most intelligent and insightful young men that I've ever met. He's an incredibly gifted artist. He ranks in the top 5% of his class. His writing skills are superior to those of his native-born peers. He wants to become an architect. In his spare time, he listens to opera, plays violin, and enjoys critiquing melodramatic telenovelas. He is kind and respectful and inquisitive.

He's also undocumented. He describes himself as a "man without a country”, neither American nor Mexican; he left his home country at a very young age and is unable to return, for complicated reasons.

This, his options for the future are severely limited. In our state, public post-secondary institutions will not allow undocumented students to enroll. (Thanks, Missouri. Way to be awesome...)
Even some private colleges, a few of which were once safe havens for particularly exceptional undocumented students, have begun to sift through their rolls...


My heart breaks every time I see this kid; he is so full of potential, potential that may never be put to good use. I'm so frustrated when, in comparison, I see so many American students nonchalantly frittering away the precious opportunity to have a college education. You know: those students who kinda-sorta decide to enroll to the local community college at the very last minute, who don't have to pay a cent for school, and don't even bother to go to class. I want to (figuratively) slap some sense into these kids, which I guess is a part of my job, but I digress.

I often find myself thinking about what Luis's life would be like if he'd just been born in the "right" country; hell, if he and his family had just immigrated a mere two miles west of town, to neighboring Kansas, he would've been fine. Not only does Kansas allow undocumented residents to enroll in public and private colleges, the state also offers in-state tuition...to graduates of Kansas high schools.

I also think about how many more options he might have had, if only I’d known about his status earlier. He didn’t confess to me until March of his senior year. By that time, so many opportunities had passed him by. He’d applied for private and out-of-state schools, but without access to federal and state financial aid, he simply didn’t have the means to afford them, and the scholarships he’s applied for haven’t come through for him.

As it stands, his fate is uncertain. I haven't seen him in quite some time; he didn't show up to his high school graduation ceremony.

I will never forget one of the last times I talked with him, though. I was holding a prize raffle for all of the seniors who had been accepted to a college. As I began to draw names from the bowl, he looked at me and said, "Is my name in there?"

I don't know if there is one precise, succinct word to describe what I felt at that moment: a mixture of powerlessness, uselessness, failure, futility, loss...I don't know. Like watching a priceless, fragile sculpture falling in slow motion. You see it happening, and you can't do shit to stop it. Whatever that feeling was, I hope I never feel that again.

His name should've been in that bowl and I couldn't give him any good reason as to why it wasn't. Just because. Just because some of the paranoid, xenophobic ass-dwelling powers-that-be decided.
posted by chara at 8:41 AM on May 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


My heart breaks every time I see this kid; he is so full of potential, potential that may never be put to good use. I'm so frustrated when, in comparison, I see so many American students nonchalantly frittering away the precious opportunity to have a college education.

You know, there are plenty of American kids who are full of potential, etc. etc. Why does your heart not break for them?
posted by rr at 12:21 PM on May 28, 2009


Why does your heart not break for them?

Probably because she knows this kid, knows he's motivated, and knows that he's facing at best an uphill climb to realize his potential. And it's Not. His. Fault.

Is that really so hard for you to understand?
posted by Stewriffic at 12:50 PM on May 28, 2009


Why does your heart not break for them?

Because they're not denied the ability to get merit-based scholarships and they don't have to pay out-of-state tuition?

Why would anyone's heart break for a smart American kid who has everything? Did you flunk reading comprehension?
posted by GuyZero at 1:35 PM on May 28, 2009


Smart american kids all have everything?

Stereotyping much?
posted by rr at 1:51 PM on May 28, 2009


They have their "papers".
posted by GuyZero at 2:36 PM on May 28, 2009


Also, me falling prey to stereotyping doesn't make your reading comprehension any better.
posted by GuyZero at 2:37 PM on May 28, 2009


We don't have that big a stake in it, but there are a fair number of Canadians (and Americans) who have friends and family on both sides of the border, and being able to relocate with the minimum of fuss would be very helpful. Of course, I think Canada should join the EU, or at least the common market, so that we can diversify our trading partners, unite up with some fellow centrist monarchies, and also get some better cheese. But there is no reason we can't do both.

I was actually teasing. You see Canada would have to deal with the flood of good for nothing Americans using up all our social services and health care at the same time as diluting our national character and refusing to learn our version of English.

Though seriously, the disparity in social services is too great for a North American version of the EU and as we know from NAFTA, treaties with America result in Lowest Common Denominator standards rather than the EU version of rising to a required standard.

I'd like Canada to still have health care when I get to return.

[BTW The cheese here in the UK is delicious . Unfortunately, very little else is.]
posted by srboisvert at 2:48 PM on May 28, 2009


A desire for totally open borders seems like it's mutually incompatible with a desire for free and universal healthcare, which a lot of people also feel strongly about.

Britain has free movement of labour for all citizens of the EU, and an NHS. I don't know if non-Brit EU citizens are covered or not, but all international students are as a matter of course.

And it's still a great system. Sure, they complain and criticise it, but it's like watching someone who has a perfect house complain that there are some cracks in the second bathroom that they are really upset about.
posted by jb at 3:22 PM on May 28, 2009


rr: Why does your heart not break for them?

I'm sure you're just trolling, but I'll respond to you anyway.

I mentioned Luis's case because he's done everything right; he's worked hard, he's done well in school, he's maintained good character. The only thing separating him from his dream is the law, not any fault or deficit of his own.

I care deeply for all of my students, regardless of their country of origin. As I mentioned before, most of the students I work with are American, African-American to be exact. Everyday, I work with a wide variety of young people who are full of potential and who would thrive if they were in a different, more stable environment. Everyday, I strive to make college an attainable goal these kids.

I have a heart large enough to care for a whole host of people, even if I only mention one at a time.
Please don't put words in my mouth.
posted by chara at 5:31 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I actually think we should have an open border with Mexico and Canada like they have in the E.U.

Thanks, no. Canada has nothing to gain by tying itself even more closely to your rapidly sinking ship.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:17 PM on May 28, 2009


I suppose the DREAM Act provides this "test of assimilation" by asking them to attend collage, i.e. they must have made money already, which seems kinda harsh, but way better than nothing.

notably, DREAM also would repeal an existing law that bars immigrants from being able to receive public financial aid scholarships. Which would mean, they would able to apply for and hopefully (but not guaranteed--no upper hand over citizens) receive financial aid. This is one of the main facets of the bill people are really (really) pushing for.
posted by mmmleaf at 9:28 PM on May 28, 2009


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