How are DREAMers Supposed to Dream?

The DREAM Act of 2009 would allow illegal immigrants to be residents of the US if they immigrated before their 16th birthday among other things. The bill passed in the House but did not make it through the Senate. In 2012 President Obama passed an executive action called DACA, deferred action for children arrivals, these are usually children of undocumented immigrants who come to the US trying to give their children a better future. Unfortunately, some of the time they are being set up for failure.

Many DREAMers are smart and hard working but face many challenges when it comes to “real life” with the issues regarding higher education, taxation without representation, and a lack of opportunities.

They are blamed for not being citizens yet given no path to citizenship.

DACA passed stating that all children regardless of their residency status get public K-12 education yet there are no laws regarding higher education. Only 19 states give DACA recipients in-state tuition and 4 states through the board of regents. This means 27 states require undocumented citizens to pay out of state tuition if they are even allowed to go to a public state university. This applies to community colleges as well because DREAMers are not legal residents.

Financial aid for higher education is another issue that students face. Even though they pay taxes and often times graduated from public high schools they are not eligible for government grants or loans. When applying to FAFSA even if they submit their taxes and parents taxes and show significant need they are not eligible to receive grants from the government. Due to the residency status of their parents much of the time they are denied loans from banks to pay for college. It is estimated that there are over one million DACA eligible students yet only 65,000 graduate from high school and on average 10,000 graduate from a 4 year institution. Many students do not have the financial support to succeed at a university.

Students under DACA are given “DACAments” which include a social security number that correspond with work documents. This means that they can get jobs and pay taxes yet they do not get the chance to vote for representatives in their states or in presidential elections. All students under the age of 18 are given K-12 education with their taxpaying dollars yet they have no opportunity to have their voices heard in politics.

The lack of opportunities in regular life is also a burden for people under DACA. Businesses are hesitant to hire these people because they are under threat of losing their residency status any day. Teenagers who came over as children may have the fear of having their parents deported and becoming responsible for their families and income. It is nearly impossible for them to get a loan for college let alone a house or car.

With the new president talking about how undocumented immigrants are “criminals” the rest of the US should realize that becoming a US citizen is not a one step process. DACA members are not immediately eligible for a green card so that means one would have to get married or have a family member who is a citizen to be considered for a green card. In order to help the people in your community that may be impacted by this contact your state representative by phone or email and urge them to support the DACA DREAMers in your area. Because immigrants make America great, not the barriers we put up to hinder the progress of nearly 23% of the people in the United States.

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Dominique Maderal
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Dominique Maderal is from Arlington, VA currently studying engineering at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She works with survivors of sexual assault and is a facilitator in high schools about the topic. Follow her on social media at dom_madz.

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