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Posted March 18th, 2011 in Uncategorized by steve


The Senate education committee Thursday afternoon passed a bill that would allow Oregon students brought to the country illegally to pay in-state tuition.

Senate Bill 742 would allow undocumented high school seniors who’ve lived in Oregon the last three years to pay in-state tuition at the state’s seven public universities. They now must pay out-of-state tuition, which is three times higher and a barrier to most of them.

Sen. Larry George, R- Sherwood, cast the only vote against the measure. He said the proposal addresses a compelling justice issue, but he is concerned it would cost the state money.

“We are cutting school days, we can’t fund full-day kindergarten,” he said, “and then we’re passing something that will put an additional burden on the higher education system.”

Sen. Frank Morse, R-Albany, said he could not hold children responsible for being brought to this country illegally by their parents. It is in the interest of the state to let undocumented youth “improve our country by improving their lives,” he said. “For me it is an issue of what will make Oregon better.”

Sen. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Beaverton, said if the students are charged out-of-state tuition, they won’t go to college, and the state will lose out on their contributions to society and the economy.

Before passing the bill Thursday, the Senate committee approved two amendments to it. One would require undocumented students seeking in-state tuition to sign an affidavit saying they have filed or will file an application for citizenship. The other requires them to have been in the country five years and in Oregon the last three.

The vote was met with a smattering of applause from some in the audience, glares of outrage from others.

“We have a pathetic bunch of people in charge,” fumed Mary Mayer, of Beaverton, who watched the vote. She was angry that Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, chair of the committee, didn’t allow public testimony. She said opponents to the bill have been ignored.

“These are people here illegally,” Mayer said. “The government has not kept these people out of our country. Now they’re saying Oregon taxpayers are going to pay for them.”

Hass noted after the meeting that in an emotional two-hour public hearing two weeks ago, the committee gave everyone interested in speaking a chance to do so. Opponents at that hearingargued the bill would reward students breaking the law at the expense of Americans here legally.

Vicki Falcon, a senior education major at Western Oregon University, said after the Thursday vote that she knows lots of young students who would be able to attend college if they could pay the less expensive in-state tuition.

“A lot of them are really intelligent,” Falcon said. “They’re part of the community. Why not be contributing to it?”

A study of Washington State, where the policy is in effect, suggests the lower tuition would draw only a handful of undocumented students, George Pernsteiner, chancellor of the Oregon University System, told the state board this month.

It would result in a “slight positive impact on the university system’s bottom line,” he said. “No one campus would serve more than 15 more students in the next four years.”

A majority of Oregon’s undocumented youth lives in low-income, Latino homes. They find it a challenge to pay resident tuition and fees, which now average $7,100 for undergraduates at the seven state campuses, university officials say. Out-of-state tuition, which is about three times that, would be out of reach, they say. University of Oregon tuition and fees total $8,190 for residents and $25,830 for students from out of state.

The bill, which heads next to a vote on the Senate floor, has support from business groups, university presidents and the State Board of Higher Education.

– Bill Graves and Harry Esteve

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Citizens of Nowhere

Posted December 24th, 2010 in Uncategorized by steve

In the wake of the Dream ACT’s failure, a great article from Las Vegas Weekly about an undocumented student.

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DREAM Act again to be argued in Congress

Posted November 29th, 2010 in Uncategorized by steve

In the short amount of time left before Congress changes it’s stripes again, The DREAM Act may make it to a vote. Here is the L.A. Times article on the topic:,0,5057601.story?track=rss

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Students March to support DREAM Act

Posted July 18th, 2010 in Uncategorized by steve


“In January Miami residents and college students Felipe Matos, Gaby Pacheco, Carlos Roa and Juan Rodriguez embarked on a 1,500-mile walk from Miami to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness of the plight of children of undocumented immigrants such as themselves…”

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Hunger strikers’ American dreams

Posted July 14th, 2010 in Uncategorized by steve

From The Guardian (UK)

I asked Sonia, a student from Harlem who was born in Ecuador, how it is that she looked so energetic and, for all appearances, normal, given that it was her 10th day without eating. She laughed a little, and this is what she had to say:

“To be honest I’m losing my voice, and I feel like fainting. But I’m representing millions of undocumented students. That’s what gives me energy.” Sonia, 20, studies at Hunter College in midtown Manhattan, where she double majors in women and gender studies, with a minor in political science. “And a little makeup,” she added with a smile.

On a busy stretch of 3rd Avenue outside New York senator Charles Schumer’s Manhattan office on 10 June, a hundred or so supporters were crowded around the small group of young people who had gone without food for 10 days and nine nights to call attention to the plight of undocumented students in the US. Every year 65,000-70,000 undocumented students graduate from US high schools, according to the New York State Youth Leadership Council, and without a valid social security number or residency permit, they find themselves ineligible for financial aid, in-state tuition at public universities, and legal employment.

“We’re tired of living in fear, we can only be pushed to the wall for so long,” José Luis Zacatelco tells me, a Queens resident who studies mental health at Laguardia Community College. “I just turned 30 so I’m not doing this for myself, I’m doing it for all of these young people who want to be doctors, lawyers, engineers. We’ve already invested in their K-12 education, why are we stopping them from pursuing their dreams, studying to become professionals?”

The hunger strikers camped out on Schumer’s doorstep this week because he’s the Senate co-sponsor of the DREAM Act, a bill that would create a pathway to residency and citizenship for immigrant youth who arrived here as children – but these students say the bill isn’t moving fast enough. They want it introduced as a standalone bill immediately, and not rolled into a comprehensive immigration reform bill, which Schumer prefers, that could go either way during this feisty election year.

This action and others like it unfolding across the country appear to mark a new impatience in an immigrant rights movement that had its coming out day in March of 2006. Maybe it’s the economic crash that has made life more precarious for all of us, especially those without access to education, or the fact that deportations have risen under the Obama administration. But a major tipping point appears to have been reached with the recent controversial anti-immigrant bill passed in Arizona, which has become a flashpoint for debate on the issue, touching off boycotts, and even driving many Latino immigrants from the state.

An immigrant student is detainedAn immigrant student is removed from Charles Schumer’s office following a sit-in. Photograph: Alex RiveraWhatever it can be attributed to, something has shifted both in the tactics that immigrant rights activists are now using on a regular basis, and in the language they’re employing to frame their demands. And there’s an increasing resemblance to the language of enfranchisement that the American civil rights movement perfected in the 1960s, and the unceasing nonviolent confrontational tactics that were employed to push for landmark legislation like the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Although no arrests were reported at the Manhattan action on Thursday, a few dozen miles east three immigrant student activists from the same group staged a sit-in at Schumer’s Long Island office, accompanied by Alex Rivera, an award-winning documentary filmmaker. They were removed by agents from the Federal Protective Service, detained for a short while and eventually released without charge.

“For a long time in my life it’s been fear and shame, afraid of being deported, and ashamed of being undocumented,” Marco Saavedra tells me, a 20-year-old student of sociology at Kenyon College who was born in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Marco didn’t make it to day 10 – he halted his fast on the eighth day with approval by all of the other hunger strikers. He had to start a summer internship at the New York City department of education, and his fellow strikers agreed it would defeat the purpose to show up on his first day of work near starvation.

“Getting involved in this youth movement, it’s been like coming out of a depression.”

Nearby a man with a bullhorn rallies the crowd, chanting, “Up with the Dream Act” and “Schumer, Schumer, shame on you!” Passing cars honked their horns, and somebody read aloud a letter of support signed by a number of local chapters of SEIU, one of the country’s biggest unions. Another local union had provided the hunger strikers with a small grant as well as another key amenity for an extended summer slumber party on the streets of midtown – port-a-potties equipped with fresh water to wash hands and faces with.

Although the hunger strikers had demanded a meeting with Schumer it seems the senator was still in Washington and wouldn’t be showing up any time soon. I left a few messages with his office, but didn’t hear anything back. Outside I asked Yessica Martinez, a 17-year-old high school student from Queens what brought her out in support of the hunger strikers, and she said it’s pretty simple.

“It’s our country. We have American dreams too.

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Young Illegal Immigrants Get a Chance to Learn but Not Earn

Posted July 12th, 2010 in Uncategorized by steve

(From the Arizona Daily Star)

Juan’s room shows a life shaped by American education. It’s painted in the colors of Dallas’ Thomas Jefferson High School, his new alma mater. Trophies and medals brag for him: top 10 percent of his class, captain of two sports teams, a district first-place finisher in track, an almost perfect SAT score, the only football player in band. He’s a poster child of American schooling, with wishes to enter the military or teach English.

Neither option is open to Juan, who has grown up in the country illegally. Now he must realign his goals to fit his immigration status.

Thousands of high school graduates like Juan are discovering the dichotomy between a federal law that ensures their education and one that prevents them from using it.

“I never saw myself as an immigrant,” said Juan, a toddler when his family brought him from Mexico. Like the other students in this story, he is being identified only by his first name.

“I’ve been a Dallas boy forever. So it’s a bad feeling, knowing 17 years of study with regular kids — doing better than them — and I can’t even go out and find a job.” Federal law bans public schools from denying admission to illegal immigrants. Between 50,000 and 70,000 of them graduate each year from American high schools. No such law exists for public universities, though 10 states including Texas provide some form of in-state tuition aid to illegal immigrants.

Juan will attend the University of Texas at San Antonio. But in sharp irony to the country’s education ethos, a degree will not boost his career. Juan can’t gain legal employment without a Social Security number, meaning he can return to Mexico with his acquired skills or do the same work as his relatives here. He has decided to major in business administration because he knows a bit about mechanics from his uncle and won’t need to show papers to open a shop.

“Opportunity comes for people who work hard for it,” said the 18-year-old, echoing the mantra he learned in school. “Something might happen to reward me.”

Their legal paradox has become a central issue for illegal immigrant students, said Roberto Gonzales, an assistant professor of social work at the University of Washington who studies the demographic.

“Our laws treat children and adults differently, but they don’t allow for the life course of children becoming adults,” he said. “It produces a jarring effect right around junior or senior year when that comes into play, and they realize the experiences they have had up until then are not going to prepare them to move forward as adults.” Because of this, he said, only 5 percent to 10 percent of illegal immigrant high school students continue their educations. “From a policy standpoint, from a governmental standpoint, it’s a real waste of our talent. It’s a loss of investment we make in young people, who have skills and experience. The best they can hope for is to get into some graduate program and stall for time while they wait for legislation to pass.”

That proposed legislation is the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act, a previously defeated bill that would create a path to citizenship for students. Immigration experts say it may have a greater chance of passing this year than a comprehensive immigration package. More than 100 members of the U.S. House have agreed to support the measure.

But that doesn’t make it likely. The shadow of Arizona’s new law cracking down on illegal immigrants has stretched to Texas. A current lawsuit by the Immigration Reform Coalition of Texas challenges the in-state tuition law. Accounts of detained Texan college students — from attendees of Harvard University to the University of Texas at Arlington — are increasingly common.

Despite initial discussion to allow undocumented students into the military, the state Republican Party opted to oppose amnesty at its convention in June.

“Everyone is quick to blame the enforcement of the law,” said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform. “Nobody wants to attribute blame to parents who made a conscious decision to violate the law.” Others sacrifice for it, he said. “When you admit a kid to the University of Texas who is in the country illegally, by definition you are excluding somebody else. That kid also worked hard and his or her family didn’t break any law.”

Texas awarded about $33.6 million in state and institutional financial aid to these students between fall 2004 and summer 2008, which also includes those who are not legal permanent residents or U.S. citizens.

U.S. citizens “are having trouble making ends meet and can’t pay tuition for their own kids,” said David Rogers, the coalition’s attorney for the lawsuit, who believes the fragile economy and Arizona backlash will spawn greater restrictions for illegal immigrants.

David, another illegal immigrant, leaves the political wars of immigration reform to others. He tries not to think about it. He’d rather talk about fighting in the Army.

Half-deflated graduation balloons hang in a two-room apartment the 17-year-old shares with his extended family. If he had his own room, he said, he would display his ROTC medals — best sharpshooter, battalion leader, dedicated cadet. The certificate he keeps in a protective folder says he exemplifies “the high ideals and principles which motivated and sustained our patriot ancestors.” David realized he didn’t belong in that category when he tried to join the military.

“I can’t explain it,” he said. “You just go there and are brave enough to fight for the freedom of the United States. I would be fighting for my country.”

Instead, he will attend Brookhaven College in the fall and redirect dreams toward a career in Christian rap.

Thomas Jefferson High principal Eddie Conger sees more students like David every year, Texan dreamers suddenly aware they will relive their parents’ lives.

“Yes, we need to secure our borders,” he said. “But you’ve got to look at these kids that we have educated and allow them in because it’s in the best interest of our country.”

Viriviana, an undocumented student who attended Dallas’ Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, just graduated with honors from the University of Texas at Austin. She’ll start a master’s degree in social work at Columbia University this fall. Then she’ll wait.

“It feels like my status is my worst enemy,” she said. “It’s preventing me from doing what I was taught to do.”

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Georgia searches for undocumented students

Posted July 1st, 2010 in Uncategorized by steve

As reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Several of Georgia’s public colleges say fewer than five illegal immigrants took classes on their campuses last year.

The State Board of Regents directed its 35 colleges and universities to make sure all students from out of state, including those from out of the country, are paying out-of-state tuition. Through this process, colleges are learning how many students are undocumented.

Georgia State University told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that it enrolled 19 undocumented students in 2009 — less than one-tenth of 1 percent of its total enrollment of 30,427. But Georgia Tech officials said they enrolled fewer than five, and the University of West Georgia said only three attended last fall. Augusta State University had just one – although he has since received an appropriate visa. Southern Polytechnic State University reported no undocumented students for the fall and one for the summer semester, and the Medical College of Georgia said it had none.

Continue here:

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