Thursday, March 6, 2008

High school achievement of visaless students unimpeded by government's blockade of benefits of diploma

But college, jobs out of reach of star pupils

Ten local students lobby Senators Alexander and Corker to support DREAM Act

"We don't want to make it worse by raising hopes and then dashing dreams"

Middle Tennessee high school students whose problematic immigration status was determined before they became adults, and in some cases without their knowledge, are still succeeding and graduating with great promise, despite the fact that the government currently has a blockade against them, preventing them from using the benefits of a high school education in the United States. Such students cannot often obtain in-state college tuition even they would otherwise satisfy residency requirements, they cannot work legally before or after graduation, and there is a current proposal in Tennessee to keep them out of college altogether even if they paid on their own dime.

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition organized a trip for ten local students to Washington, D.C., to lobby Tennessee Senators Alexander and Corker to vote in favor of the DREAM Act, which would reward high-performing high school students and renew practical incentives for success. Alexander and Corker have voted against the DREAM Act in the past.

From the story in the Tennessean:
Moya, 17, may be unable to attend college, though she has a 3.4 grade point average, received unsolicited recruiting packages from Princeton University, and speaks and writes in English and Spanish. Her parents brought her from Mexico to the U.S. at age 8 and enrolled her in Metro Nashville schools. The parents overstayed their visas, making the family illegal.

Two proposed laws — one federal, one state — would deal with Moya's situation in far different manners. The federal Dream Act would let her and students like her enter public colleges and universities and would even hold out a possibility of in-state tuition.

Tennessee's plan would bar state schools from admitting her and others who cannot prove they're in the country legally. Proponents say House and Senate bills would open up spaces for other students.
The Dream Act, which enjoyed bipartisan support, is stalled in the U.S. Senate after a fall filibuster. Tennessee Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, both Republicans, voted against the bill.

Moya and nine other students from across the state climbed into SUVs in Nashville on Wednesday morning to drive to Washington, meet with both lawmakers and try to jump-start it. The Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition organized the trip.
The situation deals a psychological blow to some students, said Jessie Van de Griek, director of the YMCA of Middle Tennessee's Hispanic Achievers' Program. The program opened seven years ago to help Hispanic students — those here legally and those who are not — navigate the college application process and develop leadership skills.

Last year, Hispanic Achievers' began referring students and their parents to immigration attorneys. Some are exploring their options, but none have been able to obtain citizenship or student visas in their home countries. Citizenship is a process that often takes more than a decade.

"It's a key issue," Van de Griek said. "If we are raising the hopes of students who are undocumented and they don't have any way to achieve, we don't want to make it worse by raising hopes and then dashing dreams."
The Tennessee proposal to blockade high performers from college altogether echoes of the doomsday clock and the misery strategy.

Students in similar situations outside Tennessee write the blogs I Am a Shadow and Dreams Unlimited, LLC. Various visaless students in California made their case to break the blockade in this video:

Photo by Margo C. Licensed under Creative Commons.

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