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Wednesday, June 09, 2004

El Diario/LA PRENSA-Illegal Aliens Want to Go to College

El Diario/LA PRENSA ��� OnLine��

It`s graduation time all across the United States, a time when teenagers leave their high school years behind and head off in pursuit of the future. But going to college presents enormous obstacles for the thousands of high school seniors in this country who are undocumented immigrants.

The DREAM Act is proposed federal legislation that would help these teenagers attend colleges and universities and, in the long run, find the future their parents sought for them when they brought them to this country.

The Urban Institute estimates that 65,000 graduating seniors in this country are undocumented immigrants. They include a smart and talented senior from New Jersey who we called Esperanza Sánchez when we wrote about the DREAM Act in EL DIARIO LA PRENSA last December. She is an honor student and wants to go to college, but cannot because her illegal immigrant status makes her ineligible for financial aid.

About 10 percent of these seniors, or 6,500 teenagers, are New York City public school students.

On Thursday, teenage immigrants will rally in the Brooklyn district of U.S. Rep. Vito Fossella, the only New York city representative who has not sponsored the legislation.

The DREAM Act is the name of the bill in the Senate; the companion bill in the House of Representatives is called the Student Adjustment Act. The bills seek to allow students to adjust their status to legal resident on a conditional basis while they attend college, making them eligible for financial aid. The conditional status would be removed if the student graduates college within six years or serves in the U.S. Armed Forces for two years.

The DREAM Act would recognize these students` talents and reward their hard work. For too long, the U.S. raised children of undocumented immigrants have been shut out from an important path in the search for the American Dream.

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