Students organize to discuss immigration reform

Andrea Rosales, sophomore in LAS, began Thursday night’s Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act panel by introducing La Colectiva and IDREAM to the 50 students and community members gathered at Temple Hoyne Buell Hall.

Krystina Briones, sophomore in LAS, followed with a brief explanation of the controversial legislation, emphasizing that its beneficiaries included members of several immigrant communities beyond the Latino community.

To emphasize this point, the panel organizers played a documentary called ‘Underground Undergraduates,’ which featured a variety of undergraduate students announcing their backgrounds and their aspirations that are being held short by their lack of documentation.

In the discussion panel that followed, an undocumented student who asked that his identity be kept confidential, echoed these sentiments.

“I feel as though I’m American in every sense, except there’s a nine digit number that stops me,” he said, explaining that he immigrated to the United States before he turned two years old.

The student said he first noticed his undocumented status when teenage milestones, such as driver’s licenses and voter registration, came around.

He also read a testimony from another undocumented student.

“This status is the only thing that keeps them legal, and keeps me in the shadows of this country,” the testimony read. “We are not asking for special privileges, only a chance to succeed and give back to the only nation that we know and love.”

Also speaking on the panel were Joshua Hoyt, director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and Yadira, graduate student, who worked with La Colectiva in the past.

Yadira asked that her last name be kept confidential.

Hoyt gave a brief, recent history of immigration legislation. He said that the passage of Illinois House of Representatives Bill 60 in 2005 allowed undocumented students access to in-state tuition and preceded an anti-immigrant backlash that was only countered by a massive mobilization of over 3 million people.

He ended his part of the panel discussing specific cases of injustices against undocumented immigrants. He said he will participate in a protest next Thursday at Broadview Federal Immigrant Detention Center in Broadview, Ill., in favor of two nuns whom U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will not allow into the institution to pray for the detained.

Yadira discussed her early activism with La Colectiva, describing efforts on the part of the group to educate undocumented families about the options open to their children. She said many were unaware that their children could attend universities, as high school counselors had told them their status precluded pursuing a higher education.

However, the undocumented student emphasized that students in his situation face an immense obstacle in financing their education, as they are ineligible for general scholarships, grants and financial aid.

After a brief question and answer session, Briones announced that University Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Renee Romano had recently announced that she would publicly support the DREAM Act.

“I didn’t think it would move this far this fast,” said Irakere Picon, junior in LAS and president of La Colectiva, adding that he hoped to see more faculty and staff participation. “I hope we can continue this healthy student/administration relationship.”