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DREAM Act Becoming Major Mid-Term Battleground

DREAM Act Becoming Major Mid-Term Battleground
Republicans blast the controversial bill during Colorado hearing.
By Peter Eichstaedt

A U.S. congressional hearing focusing on a controversial illegal immigrant education law drew criticism from Republican lawmakers, signaling their intent to make the law a partisan election issue
in November. 

“Allowing in-state tuition for illegal aliens encourages the violation of federal immigration law and is unfair to legal aliens and out-of-state U.S. citizens,” said U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., referring to a main tenet of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.

Musgrave, who faces strong Democratic opposition in her re-election effort this fall, was one of just two members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce who attended the hearing at the University of Northern Colorado earlier this month.

Immigration reform is a hot-button political issue in Colorado, which has a large and growing population of undocumented workers, mostly from Mexico and other Central American countries. So far, 10 states have defied federal law and chosen to offer in-state tuition to the college-eligible children of illegal immigrants. Colorado has made no such move.

The DREAM Act would allow states to offer in-state tuition to illegal immigrant college students under the age of 18. Once a student turns 18, the bill provides a speedy path to citizenship and protection from deportation.

Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., said the Senate bill “raised eyebrows” in Congress, including his.

“I can’t help but think that providing benefits for illegal immigrants that aren’t provided for all law-abiding American citizens is neither efficient nor effective,” he says, suggesting that out-of-state citizens should also be provided in-state tuition for any institution.

During the hearing, one of the act’s harshest critics was panelist and University of Missouri law professor Kris Kobach, who called it “perverse” and “ridiculous.”

“The DREAM Act makes it absurdly easy for just about any illegal … to evade the law,” he told the committee.

Several prospective college students, all children of illegal immigrants, gathered outside the hearing to show their support for the bill.

Alex Chavira, an 18-year-old high school graduate from neighboring Longmont, Colo., was born in Mexico but attended elementary, middle and high school in Colorado. He now wants to attend college, but says that without some financial help, “it’s like running into a brick wall.” Despite a solid academic background, he said his application to a local community college was denied because of his illegal status.

Chavira said the bill would help illegal immigrants obtain degrees and become productive citizens, adding that current immigration laws are unfair and need to be changed.

“[The DREAM Act] benefits a lot of student who are here illegally,”
Chavira said.

Alfonso Mejia, an 18-year-old student born in El Salvador, said the children of illegal immigrants are being discriminated against because of no fault of their own.

“It wasn’t our choice to come here,” he said.

Kobach has argued that the children of illegal immigrants should return to their native countries and apply for visas like other prospective immigrants. Mejia, however, said such a return is impossible for him, because he came to the United States as a small child with his aunt after his village was destroyed by an earthquake.

Chavira said that he has never returned to Mexico and that because he was raised and educated in the United States, he considers himself an American, not a Mexican.

“I know nothing about Mexico,” he said. “I’m an American, but not legal.”

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