Immigrant high school graduates seek a pathway to U.S. citizenship

EL PASO, Texas — Many of the 65,000 illegal immigrants who graduate from high school in the U.S. every year live under the entrapment radar, risking deportation at any time as they attempt to attend college or serve in the U.S. military services.

According to statistics from the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), most of these students in all grade levels have been raised in America, in American public school systems, American cities. Many only speak English and the American culture is what they know.  They have little left of their culture of origin.

“It’s a very sad experience to forget where you came from because you’re accustomed to life here.  You could hardly remember that you came here from another country,” said a student who wishes to remain anonymous.  The student at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) is an illegal immigrant because, like the thousands of illegal high school students who graduate every year in the U.S., this student was not brought to America by choice.  The parents made that choice.

“It’s a difficult situation. I don’t feel like I came from my country of origin. I feel American and that’s who I am now.  Even if people say I am not American, I’m just like them.  I speak their language. I act like them. I dress like them. I watch the same shows as them… I might not have the papers but I’m American,” said the same student at a Rock the Dream event Wednesday in support of the Dream Act.

The purpose of the event hosted by the UTEP LULAC chapter was to gather signed letters in support of the Dream Act addressed to Texas state senators.  The event hosted live music from Key Lime Pie and Red City Blues as well as keynote speaker El Paso representative Marisa Marquez of the 77th district who supports the bill.

UTEP students signed letters in support of the Dream Act addressed to Texas state senators. (John De Frank/Borderzine.com)

UTEP students signed letters in support of the Dream Act addressed to Texas state senators. (John De Frank/Borderzine.com)

“These are hundreds of thousands of children in our country. Cheerleaders on a cheerleading squad, members of a high school football team, students who work hard and play by the rules, students like yourselves,” echoed Marquez’ voice over the speakers to a crowd of about 100 students.

“The fundamental premise of the Dream Act is to not punish the children for the parent’s actions. That’s not what this nation is about,” said Marquez.

When asked to detail the message she wants legislators to hear, Marquez said, “I would remind them of the history of our nation. All of us are immigrants here. All of us have come seeking an opportunity and to deny those who are committed to contributing to our society in positive ways, by getting an education and continuing to work here and build their families here is to deny our history.”

Humerto Cruz, a Senior Political Science major and the Vice President of the LULAC chapter at UTEP, who was in charge of the event, says that Rock the Dream was not just to promote the Dream Act but to raise up to 3,000 signatures to send to Texas senators, Kay Bailey Hutchinson and John Cornyn. The two Texas senators stand on the opposing side of the issue arguing that it would be unjust to reward citizenship to those who broke the law.

“We felt it was important for us to have a big event here on campus so we could raise awareness of the Dream Act and to also let our senators know that there are people here in El Paso, Texas who care about the education of other individuals who are less privileged,” said Cruz.

If the Dream Act were passed this bill would only remedy a portion of what is the overall problem of Immigration Reform.

“Even by passing the Dream Act, this will only affect 38% of undocumented immigrants that could potentially attend college,” said Cruz.

Although it may only aid a fraction of the illegal immigration population, Cruz, wants people to understand the sensitiveness of the issue in that this act is not just for Mexican Immigrants but for all immigrants that have grown up here in America, brought here by their parents, not by choice. “Some of them do not even speak other languages, or remember their native countries. They want to stay here. They want to be productive members of the American society,” said Cruz.

Although not an official count, Cruz estimated around 1,000 letters in support of the Dream Act were signed during the event, which ran from 10:00AM to 2:00PM.

Other opposing views insisted that this act would only aid a small percentage of the illegal immigrants in comparison to the amount of time and resources it would take to implement and operate such a bill.  They argue that a bill for immigration reform should aim at solving a bigger population of illegal immigrants.

Although much of the opposition is from conservatives on Capital Hill, there are a good number of Republicans that support the Dream Act as a bipartisan movement.

There are some misconceptions that some Republicans are against the Dream Act or those that support it are accused by conservatives of supporting amnesty, but as Ryan Padilla, a Junior – Civil Engineering major and Vice Chairman of the UTEP College Republicans states, “We believe that it’s a viable route for illegal immigrants that come here as minors to have the opportunity to become citizens and fulfill their American dream as well as a benefit to universities all across America and the armed forces.”

The Dream Act would allow students who have graduated with a diploma or a GED and are in the country illegal a chance to gain their citizenship through a pathway of temporary residency if; they have been in the country for over 5 years, are under the age of 16, have good moral character, (which means they have not been convicted of a crime), and can complete at least 2 years of a 4 –year higher education institute or 2 years completion in the service. Although, there is nothing mentioned in the bill that requires completion of the 4-year university or military term, they must finish the 2-year requirement within a 6-year period in which they will be granted a temporary residency. Upon completion of the requirements they will become eligible for citizenship.

Gabriella Flores, a freshman at UTEP, who has a visa and is in the process of obtaining legal residency, describes the struggle in which illegal immigrants as oppose to citizens in regards to education and service.

“It’s not fair that most non residents have to struggle a lot to attend college because there are many U.S. Citizens who do not take the opportunity to go to college and to make something better for themselves… when other people, (non-citizens and illegal immigrants), are trying to accomplish those goals, they (U.S. government) make obstacles for them,” said Flores.

In fact many illegal immigrants that have grown-up in America share the same views as Flores in respect to many American’s choice to refuse opportunities to attend college or serve in comparison to non-citizens who wish to receive an education or serve in our military, to fight U.S. wars.

Unfortunately for the anonymous UTEP student, the American dream is not some much a choice but a sad surrender of family ties and a paradoxical arrangement to the pursuit of happiness. “The best way I can describe it is; we’re like birds in a cage we can’t really experience freedom.  I can only experience this city, El Paso… As much as I would like to go back to Mexico and visit my family, I can’t… I’m already here so I have to make a life for myself. My family is long gone, I could hardly remember them.”

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21 Comments

  • steve says:

    Our Government, has allowed the invasion of 30 million criminals in direct violation of Article IV, Section IV of our Constitution. they force American tax payers to pay Billions to provide Welfare, Prison cells, Educate the invaders children, free medical care,massive document fraud, & are destroying our schools, hospitals, communities, culture while Robbing, Raping, Killing & Assaulting American Citizens WAKE UP PEOPLE!
    .youtube.com/watch?v=tsH8xvjTAlo
    .youtube.com/watch?v=Btj6IeOFkis&feature=player_embedded
    immigrationcounters.com/
    .ojjpac.org/memorial.asp
    .immigrationshumancost.org/
    .newswithviews.com/Wooldridge/frosty580.htm
    .youtube.com/watch?v=x8upCLpPlV0&feature=player_embedded

    Every Non-representative including obama and holder need to be IMPEACHED! for not upholding the oath of office they swore to defend the Constitution! If these clowns were to do their job, this would all be a Moot point!

  • E.H. says:

    I strongly believe you STEVE, should wake up!!!! and get your facts right. Yes, i’m aware that a small percentage of the “Invasion” as you mention it, are criminals. But, you should be objective about the matter. Know that the rest of the percentage has helped our country greatly in its crisis. lets take for example the EL Paso area, where hundreds of Mexican investors are the current owners of many growing bossiness and development of employment. i strongly recommend you put some brakes to that hatred. who knows maybe your boss will end up being someone who directly benefited from the Dream Act. think about it.

  • Erika says:

    The dream act is the first step in addressing illegal immigration. Here President Obama is giving them a path to become citizens..not citizenship like reps. like to say. If they do service in the military they will have a better path to become citizens. What is wrong with that? It is like a program we already have where students work for their tuition by helping the sick get to a doctor, buy groceries for them, help children read…this is the Americore program which Bush cut in half. These students do so many hours of work and get about $2,000. toward their tuition. It is a win- win situation just like the dream act. We arenot giving citizenship away. And why dont we want to have some programs for the young ones who want to go to college. Becoming educated makes them better citizens and helps them get better jobs. They were brought her as children..this is their country the only country they know. Are we to turn our backs on them also. Mr. paladino of N.Y. want to change the sign on the statue of liberty to say (don’t come here …stay away) This is not our America and he is an idiot. He also wants to put the unemployed looking for jobs in an unused jail in upstate N.Y. to teach them (as he says) manners and cleanliness). Talk about someone being Hitler…he fits that bill to me

  • magyart says:

    EL PASO, Texas — “Many of the 65,000 illegal immigrants who graduate from high school in the U.S. every year live under the entrapment radar, risking deportation at any time as they attempt to attend college or serve in the U.S. military services.”

    Contray to what this article states, illegal residents are not permitted to serve in the U.S. military.

    Congress will be in gridlock for the nxt two years. IMO, the Dream Act will not get passed. It’s unfortunate for these kids, but they may want to consider an alternative ?

  • seth says:

    I’m sorry “Magyart” but there is no alternative. The Dream ACT must pass NOW!!! and “Steve”, you’re a moron. Please shut your ignorant face.

    These kids are Americans without papers. That is it. The only difference between my kids and these Dreamers are papers. Most of these kids came at a very young age and lot of them don’t even know their own language. Other than that, they attended the same schools, ate the same food, and watched the same TV shows. These kids deserve a chance to become American Citizens. They cannot wait 2 more years or 4 more years. They waited their entire life to get a Driver’s license or travel outside the US.

    Pass the Dream ACT NOW!!!

  • AzEd says:

    Steve your ignorant and stupid! Dont compare the innocent students who were brought here at a young age to killer criminals.
    Regardless, the Dream Act is not an amnesty. It also does not apply to millions, only to about 100,000. On top of that it wont give them anything, but a CHANCE to EARN legal status.
    How is that unfair? Why punish those that have been suffering since a young age? Support the Dream Act

  • magyart says:

    In most states, these kids can’t get a driver’s license.

    I’ve never seen the country as polarized as it is today. In some ways it’s worse than in the late 60′s, early 70′s, when cities were burning and bullets were flying at collages across the country. The violence is less, the political will to compromise for “the good of the country” has evaporated. Perhaps term limits are NOT making things better ?

  • Ali says:

    The Dream Act allows legalized illegal alien “children” to eventually sponsor for residency the very people who brought them here illegally, usually their parents. It rewards illegal behavior and encourages more of it.

    If these “children” want to study here, then let them apply for a student visa like legal foreign students have to do, and pay their own way. Because you “feel” like an American doesn’t mean you are one. Your parents and you at age 18 made the decision to circumvent that process by coming or remaining here illegally.

  • Ali says:

    says:
    November 7, 2010 at 6:18 am
    I’m sorry “Magyart” but there is no alternative. The Dream ACT must pass NOW!!! and “Steve”, you’re a moron. Please shut your ignorant face.

    These kids are Americans without papers. That is it. The only difference between my kids and these Dreamers are papers. Most of these kids came at a very young age and lot of them don’t even know their own language. Other than that, they attended the same schools, ate the same food, and watched the same TV shows. These kids deserve a chance to become American Citizens. They cannot wait 2 more years or 4 more years. They waited their entire life to get a Driver’s license or travel outside the US.

    Pass the Dream ACT NOW!!!

    ———-
    Utter bull. Many of these children came later, as old as age 15. One such “Dreamer” and his mother who have given interviews came when he was 15 specifically so he could get in on a “free” education and the Dream Act. As long as these children can come here at such a late age and benefit from the Act, and as long as there is no requirement that the PARENTS who brought them here illegally leave, this very bad bill rewards illegal behavior.

  • Ali says:

    AzEd says:
    November 7, 2010 at 8:35 pm
    Steve your ignorant and stupid! Dont compare the innocent students who were brought here at a young age to killer criminals.
    Regardless, the Dream Act is not an amnesty. It also does not apply to millions, only to about 100,000. On top of that it wont give them anything, but a CHANCE to EARN legal status.
    How is that unfair? Why punish those that have been suffering since a young age? Support the Dream Act
    ————
    Why is it unfair? Because the foreign students I’ve taught overseas have to jump through immigration hoops and pay high foreign student rates. What makes YOU “special”? That your parents are liars, cheats, and line jumpers? That they break the law for YOUR benefit? Tell you what–if the Dream Act REQUIRES that your parents return to their home countries, never to be able to return here, BEFORE you get amnesty, I’ll support the bill. Otherwise, there’s not a reason in the world for rewarding their illegal behavior–or you for your decision at age 18 to remain here illegally.

  • Ali says:

    E.H. says:
    November 5, 2010 at 10:30 am
    I strongly believe you STEVE, should wake up!!!! and get your facts right. Yes, i’m aware that a small percentage of the “Invasion” as you mention it, are criminals. But, you should be objective about the matter. Know that the rest of the percentage has helped our country greatly in its crisis. lets take for example the EL Paso area, where hundreds of Mexican investors are the current owners of many growing bossiness and development of employment. i strongly recommend you put some brakes to that hatred. who knows maybe your boss will end up being someone who directly benefited from the Dream Act. think about it
    ———-
    My, my, my. And here we’ve been told all these years that we “need” illegal aliens because they’re doing the jobs Americans won’t do. Going to college and into the professions isn’t one of them. And you can bet that MEXICO “needs” its “Dreamers” far more than we do.

  • Brenda says:

    Ok, so Ali, I would have to strongly disagree with you. I respect your opinions, I do. I spent all my years in school with people who had your beliefs. Many of these kids came here later as old as age 15? lol. I came to the U.S. at the age of 5 from a very modest living. Born in Juarez, poor, to a 16 year old girl. My future looked bleak from the beginning. Yes, I lived undocumented until I was 17 years old. Yes, I got up EVERY DAY to say the pledge of allegiance. YES, I am legally an AMERICAN CITIZEN, no green card needed.(No I’m not married and I don’t have kids) And to be honest with you, I’ve always felt American. YES, I did better than a lot of other students academically and even spoke better English than most of them (this school was predominantly white school). How do you guys not think that the DREAM Act makes sense? In 2050 the majority of the population will be a minority. (Hispanic). How do you expect the country to progress if that population is not educated? Does that make sense? If you want to talk about tax dollars, doesn’t it make sense to make people smarter so they can earn their own money instead of getting money from the government? I would think that educating people is less of a liability in the long run? I have attended two different universities with two different racial make ups,and have seen kids who ARE American citizens, get drunk, skip class, and flunk out. Are you aware that the same kind of sentiment you are expressing about Mexicans are the same sentiments Americans had about the Irish long ago? Are you familiar with Plyer vs. Doe? Undocumented children are REQUIRED by law to go to elementary, middle and high school, and yet they are denied the right to go further that same education that is REQUIRED by the U.S.? GIVE ME A BREAK. I have a lot to say and this doesn’t even begin my argument in support of DREAM Act. Like I said Ali, I respect your beliefs, I just feel they are a tad outdated and I feel like I would be wasting my time saying anything more. Oh, and I’m going to leave Steve alone.

  • TexMex says:

    They shouldn’t be allowed to become citizens but they should be allowed to be legal residents of this country.

    They should have to pay a fine or an amount equal to what their education cost.

    If they are adults and are involved in felony crimes then they shouldn’t be able to stay in this country.

    There is no easy answer but you have to be as fair as possible to everyone else who have done everything legally and didn’t lie and didn’t try to jump in front of the line in order to come into the United States. These people are humans to with children and families too.

    Be fair and dont make excuses for anyone who is trying to take advantage of others.

    not all illigal immigrants are as innocent as you think.
    just ask the mexicans in mexico who are being killed and robbed and raped.

  • Brenda says:

    TexMex,
    Last time I checked, El Paso is THE safest cities in America! http://www.elpasotimes.com/news/ci_16675219. And forgive me if I’m wrong… but there are a lot of Mexicans in El Paso and a lot of those I will be willing to bet on are undocumented. I don’t think that all legal Americans are as easy as you think either just ask all the Americans here who are killed, raped, and robbed. There are always SOME rotten apples at the bottom of the barrel. You can go to a church and find people who are there to serve God and really do their best to live up to His word and there are others who are just there to socialize and don’t try to better their lives. That’s just the way it is EVERYWHERE.I just don’t think your argument is strong. The DREAM Act serves to give those people who ARE good and do not have any type of criminal records the chance to be Americans and contribute economically, politically,etc. But I do acknowledge that you said that they should be legal residents of this country and thank you for that.

  • Brenda says:

    **** “are as innocent as you think”— correction on the 5th line.

  • Adele says:

    Brenda let me add a bit more. I live in a predominately hispanic neigborhood. Many of the homes have at least two families living in them to help pay the rent. 95% of them work at jobs that pay below minimum wage because employers take advantage of them. I don’t know anyone who collects government aid, because it is denied to them and even if they could get aid, are afraid to apply because they fear deportation. According to government tables, the racial groups that are on aid are 1)whites, followed by 2)blacks and a distant 3)Hispanics. Anyone can look these up. Furthermore, it seems most people don’t know or conviently forget that the southwest states belonged to Mexico at one time and the aliens were the invading caucasians that took the lands after the war with Mexico. Yeah, i know, Mexico sold the land, but for pennies and acre. Now, except for the Cubans and other designated countries, many hispanics, expecially the Mexican immigrants suffer the indignities of a conquered people. I believe the failure of the Dream Act is to keep these people subjugated as much as possible. We bemoan the countries that deny their people human rights, well I’m sorry to say, in many instances we allow the same to people living here who lack the stamp of approval called citizenship.

  • Max says:

    I have read your comments. Now let’s talk as best we can like adults. We have a huge

    problem in America. No one can deny that illegal immagrants are coming in at a rate that is

    taking up jobs, choked the life out of schools (No child left behind), etc. I am talking

    about any illegal person. I have to show my ID to get my car tag, purchase something, or

    pretty much anything. Why is it so difficult to ask that of those that are illegal? The

    reason is political and the money as someone stated. People hire cheaper labor. I would

    suggest a measure that would allow those that are here NOW, not next month, to be able to

    get documented and also serve in other ways than the military. I don’t want them to have to

    serve in the military since so many go into it for the benefits anyway. I am very proud of

    a soldier. That soldier needs to be very proud of my service I have provided to him since

    so much of what our country does is to protect and see to the soldier’s needs. One doesn’t

    have to wear a uniform to serve their country. This has been beaten to death. I know also

    Rick Perry wants to educate all the illegal children. Hey so would I. But what he doesn’t

    tell you is that most of them will not finish high school, get college free as minority

    status, and free healthcare while US citizens pay for all of it. This is the real reason of

    our national debt. Meanwhile back at the ranch..The Dream Act is a pretty face on the same

    old stuff that has been tried in the past. Novel idea but bad. The American Indians of the

    West had the land and not the Mexicans that lived in that area. That came later when they

    took it. Also, the land was all up for grabs at that time. AND it was not against the law

    then. It is now. So if one isn’t documented and taking advantage of our system they should

    be deported. Let me back up before you go postal..lol. We are talking about a minority of

    these people but nonetheless it is a large number. Schools have to downgrade their

    education so a minority can pass (What an absolute joke). After they get all the paperwork

    in and are citizens they should not be allowed to claim minority status. That is just a

    illegal immigrant with the right piece of paper.

  • Austin says:

    The DREAM act is targeted at a small portion of the illegal immigrants in the country. A portion that deserves the rights delegated in this act every bit as much as any good citizen. We must accept the fact that these individuals are here and here to stay. Furthermore, viewing them as criminals for choices they did not make is plain non-sense. Expecting them to return to their native countries at the age of 18 is even more ridiculous. Most would have nowhere to go or anyone to help them, being that their parents are in the US.
    Put yourself in their shoes, you have spent over a quarter of your later life in the US. The ties to your native country are strained if not cut, economical and culture. You would have to start your life over and would be at a major disadvantage.

    If we examine the Governments point of view we on this situation we find that educating the immigrants who are DREAMers will incur a greater return on investment than limiting education and penalizing these individuals. I honestly believe that these immigrants are here to stay. Why not invest in them what we are using to handicap them. I agree with Brenda, legislature such as the DREAM act is less of a liability in the long run and more of an investment. An highly educated workforce is a key component to a growing economy.

    I would also like to add that immigrants contribute over $37 billion dollars a year to the US economy as taxpayers, workers, entrepreneurs, and consumers ([1]White House Council of Economic Advisors, “Immigration’s Economic Impact,” (2007). http://caimmigrant.org/repository/wp-content/uploads/2007/06/CEAImmigration%20Economic%20Impact%2020070620.pdf). Evaluating the situation from a financial stand point, immigrants are entitled to much more than the DREAM act. It’s absurd to sit here and read what you “conservative” (better word would be biggots) have to say about the DREAM act. It is in no way unfair to you.

    The system is broken and these DREAMers have fallen into a grey political area. Stop arguing over things that are already done; they are beside the point. This act is not encouraging illegal activity it is dealing with the flaws in our political systems which have already happened. In a decade or so when Hispanics are the majority we will reap the consequences of the actions we take today.

    I do believe there should be a process implemented that illegal immigrant parents should have to go through before they are entitled to earning the benefit due to them from the US. This process should be put in place because it is our government’s responsibility to properly secure our boarder against illegal aliens entering our country which it has failed to do.
    Let us stop forming our opinions as Americans and start seeing things as humans. If you were a DREAMer ask yourself what would I do?

  • military school says:

    Immigrants are just as important as any other person and they contribute a lot to our society. They work in horrible conditions for very cheap labors and still pay taxes.

  • Abdullah says:

    I’m glad to see the efforts. I am Abdullah, came to United States in a young age. Attended my junior high and high school in New York. I was honors student and participated in Honor Society. In 12th grade I found out that I was illegal! The fear my tearing me apart and the guilt that “I’m illegal! If I shouldn’t be here then where should I be? Who am I?” I left United States on my will in 2003, after 2 years from my graduation and ended up in Pakistan. I still ask myself that I took the pledge of the legions of United States of America then why am i not American? I do not understand the ways of living in Pakistan and people’s mentality and they way people are and they way they do things. I spend my life in a little room and I live in the past memories of my hometown in New York and my school time. So my life is kinda dead after leaving HOME which was in New York. In 10th grade I used to say that “I would never go to Pakistan it’s crazy, I was 12 years old when I came to States. Today I came to a net cafe to search that is there any way to return back home? Is there any law which states that people who had done their high school graduation from states can return back to states so they can make a successful career? But I ran on this page! The reason I’m sharing my story is so you can look deep down that a person who was quite intelligent has been devastated in the last 9 years just because he didn’t have ID, Social Security or legal documents. I’m gone but there are many who are struggling. I pray that these efforts you all are putting in may bring success because every student who takes the pledge of legions to the flag of United States of America is an American and these are the people who can bring great success to the country because of the hidden brilliance inside them. There’s a saying “Every child is a unique Gem, you have to find out the hidden brilliance inside them”. Good Luck and God bless you all.

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