The Queens College DREAM Team hosted an event along with the New York Public Interest Research Group and the New York State Youth Leadership Council on Sept.17 to “reach out to the undocumented students on campus and start a dialogue in QC about undocumented students.”
The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act is legislation that aims to place certain undocumented immigrants on the path to permanent residency if they are able to complete a set of requirements relating to higher education.
To qualify, individuals must be between the ages of 12 and 30 at the time the DREAM Act is passed, have arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16, have resided in the U.S. for 5 consecutive years since their established date of arrival, have graduated from a U.S. high school or received a General Education Diploma and have no criminal convictions.
The first half of the event consisted of a panel discussion where speakers discussed the specifics and importance of the act, while the second half was devoted to individuals sharing their personal stories.
“The act benefits me for my future but more importantly it will benefit my sister and many other youths who struggle to have access to education,” Lorena Carino, group leader in the advocacy and outreach committee of the DREAM Team, said showing concern for her younger sister Karla, who just started high school and was the youngest speaker of the night.
Many described experiences of strong willed parents searching for better opportunities for their children. Speakers recounted memories of hard working, resilient parents coming home after a long day of work, only to start again the next day, hoping that their children would live a better life. These individuals were then faced with an even larger obstacle; spending most of their lives in America they did not truly understand the significance of their status as undocumented until much later.
Many were accepted into the most prestigious colleges in the country, only to be told their earned scholarships would not be valid and financial aid was not an option. Instead they ended up at more affordable colleges, eager to fix this issue.
Although the DREAM Act has not passed on a Federal level, 12 states have passed some version of the act at this time. Currently in New York, there is an ongoing battle for the N.Y. DREAM Act. Under this act, an estimated 146,000 young adults would be eligible to receive aid.
Critics of the act have claimed that it would create a fiscal burden on the government. Yet, the Fiscal Policy Institute states it would cost approximately $17 million to taxpayers or as proponents of the act say, “less than the cost of a donut,” in increased taxes for most citizens.
In 2012, undocumented students accounted for 2.8 percent of students enrolled in the City University of New York, and although extending financial aid to undocumented people may increase the amount of students that attend college, this increased cost would be eased by long-term economic benefits.
Since higher education leads to nearly double the income, the N.Y. DREAM Act would translate into paying an average $3,900 more in taxes each year.
As of right now without any concrete federal legislation passed, the DREAM Act remains just that, a dream.