Lily Huang is an organizer for the Student Immigration Movement
Imagine that you live your whole life as an American. You receive Best Attendance in elementary school and the National Honor Society award in high school. You sing in chorus, volunteer every week, and have a goal of becoming a teacher. Then, when you apply for college, you ask your parents for your Social Security number and find out that you don’t have one.
Now, you are faced with real barriers to education and success. You can’t drive, can’t work and can’t travel without great risk of detection and deportation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). You pay out-of-state tuition to attend your own state’s universities, and therefore have to work several jobs to afford just a few college credits at a time. If you are lucky enough, you find merit-based scholarships and are able to finish your degree. But regardless of how hard you study and work, you still can’t use your high grades and university degree to get a job. You are stuck, unable to ever realize your dreams.
This exercise in imagination is reality for as many as 2.1 million undocumented youth who grew up in this country, including many friends of mine. Can you help make a good education and the ability to succeed a possibility for thousands of promising young people?
The Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act would allow students who meet very strict legal requirements earn conditional permanent residency, and later, citizenship, once they successfully complete two years of college or military service.
As an organizer for the Student Immigrant Movement (SIM) and someone who was lucky enough to be born with my citizenship and go to college and study, I want all students to have an equal opportunity to access higher education and a real future. I want my friend, Isabel, who came here as a baby from the Dominican Republic and who just turned 19, to have the chance to realize her dream of becoming an immigration lawyer. I want Ada, who also came here as a baby from Honduras and who has been in Boston for 21 years, to realize her dream of going to college and studying History and Environmental Justice.
Now, the DREAM Act is finally coming up for a vote in the House and Senate —as early as this week. This is likely the last chance for the DREAM Act – or any kind of immigration reform – to pass for some time. With your help we can make DREAM a reality for more than two million young people.
The U.S. must stop telling young immigrants who are Americans in their hearts, but not on paper, to get into a line that doesn’t exist. Rather, we must create a real pathway to residency and citizenship for these millions of immigrant youth.
Every year, 65,000 undocumented students — people like Isabel and Ada — graduate high school and are denied the opportunity to fulfill their dreams. Isabel and Ada can’t wait any longer.
The urgency is real and we need you to join us!