5-C Students Rally for Youth Immigration Reform

Students from the DREAM Act Coalition marched from Harvey Mudd’s Hoch-Shanahan dining hall to Pomona’s Smith Campus Center on Sep. 23, stopping at 5-C dining halls and brandishing rally signs to raise awareness about the DREAM Act. The rally was the first in a string of monthly awareness events intended to gather support for a piece of legislation that, if passed, would give undocumented citizens a new means of naturalization, and would allow undocumented minors to continue on to higher education. Qualifying individuals would be able to earn conditional permanent residency and, after meeting several conditions within a six-year period, be granted permanent residency.The organizers of the event attempted to break the silence they believe has surrounded immigration reform since a debate held in the spring of 2008 by the Pomona Student Union (PSU). At the PSU event, the speakers debated delicate matters regarding immigration reform, and the event culminated in a group protest.“A lot of hatred came out of it,” said coalition founder and organizer Becca Russell-Einhorn PO ’10. “Students protested, but then no one talked about it afterward. A lot of students who are really passionate about this felt they couldn’t come out on their position without feeling judged.”While acknowledging the sensitivity of the subject, Russell-Einhorn thought the time was right to engage a new student population and garner fresh interest in the issue.She spent her summer learning about the DREAM Act through her work at Campus Progress, the youth outreach division of the Center for American Progress, and gained insight from the founders of dreamactivist.org, an action and resource network for interested individuals. Last week, the DREAM act coalition set up a table at SCC, handing out pamphlets and door signs, selling t-shirts, and encouraging students to participate in the rally.“A lot of people just don’t know about the DREAM Act and that’s the biggest thing we’re combating right now,” Russell-Einhorn said. “When people hear about it, it’s kind of a no-brainer for them.”Members from outside the Claremont colleges joined the march, including students from the University of La Verne and Chino High School. Many participants knew someone who may be affected by the DREAM Act.Coalition member Ali Standish, PO ’10 said, “They’re a hidden part of our community.”The strongest opposition currently comes from right-leaning constituents and politicians who are hesitant about voting for legislation that may open the door for comprehensive immigration reform.Senate opponents of the bill, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have argued that, if passed, the bill would further encourage illegal immigration, and have cited it as a non-priority in Obama’s political agenda.If the legislation passes, “parents who cross the border illegally may not have an opportunity to become American citizens; however, if their foreign-born children are here long enough, they can become citizens,” said Mike Whatley CM ’11, president of the Claremont College Republicans. “This idea is a powerful incentive to bring their families into this country illegally and will cause even more illegal immigration.”According to the most recently introduced version of the act, undocumented students must meet five main requirements: arrival in the U.S. before their sixteenth birthday; residence in the U.S. for at least the last five years; graduation from a U.S. high school or attainment of an U.S. G.E.D.; service in the military or attendance in college for at least two years; and good moral character. Introduced to Congress every two years since its inception in 2001, the DREAM Act received little support from a Republican Congress from 2001-2006, but supporters hope the recent shift in legislative power will result in more wholehearted support for the act in the coming term. Besides citing the social and civic benefits of passing such a bill, supporters strongly emphasize its economic advantage.“We are economically losing out on a college-educated workforce that’s not able to get full-time jobs, pay taxes, and contribute to the economic base,” CGU assistant professor of education Will Perez said. “So if anything, we’re losing money by not providing a path to legalization, because these are immigrants that aren’t going back to their homeland.”Still others emphasize the practicality of retaining a labor source that the country has educated extensively.“The U.S. invests in them K-12 then gives [them] away to another country,” said Russell-Einhorn. “It’s a waste of the country’s resources.” The rally was held in conjunction with similar and simultaneous events throughout Southern California, including petition drives and forums at UCLA and Bell Gardens High School. “Some [of the undocumented students] don’t even remember their birthplace,” said Russell-Einhorn. “They grow up as Americans with the American dream then all of a sudden they realize the dream doesn’t apply to them.”UPDATE:The Student Life has been notified of a few factual errors in the above article, and as corrected it accordingly; however, it should be noted that TSL collected information from a variety of sources for this article. Corrections will be printed in the next edition of TSL.The Student Life regrets these errors.

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