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JUNE 2010

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CSU Urges Passage of Federal DREAM Act

Dream Act Poster

California State University Chancellor Charles B. Reed, on May 6, signed a letter urging members of Congress to pass the federal DREAM Act this year.

The DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act), which the CSU has consistently supported over the years, would grant six years of conditional permanent residency to undocumented students who arrived before the age of 16, lived here for five consecutive years prior to enactment of the law, and graduated from a U.S. high school or have been accepted into an institution of higher education.

Beneficiaries would also be eligible for student loans and federal work-study programs, but not for federal grant assistance such as Pell Grants.

After the 6th year, if certain conditions are met, students who have finished at least two years of college, or served at least two years in the military, could apply for permanent residence.

Congressional supporters are divided over whether to take up the DREAM Act as separate legislation or as a part of a comprehensive immigration reform bill. It has been included as part of at least one recently introduced proposal, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act (H.R. 4321). Also, it has been a stand-alone bill since 2001, when it was first introduced. The most recent stand alone versions were introduced in 2009 (S. 729 & H.R. 1751).

The DREAM Act would benefit an estimated 65,000 U.S. students graduating from high school each year. Under current law these students can be deported from the United States and do not qualify for state or federal financial aid. In California, under AB 540, these students are eligible for in-state tuition.

The letter signed by Chancellor Reed originated with Arizona State University President Michael Crow and was signed by eight other public university leaders, including University of California President Mark Yudof.

The letter reads, in part:

"These are students brought to the United States as children, innocents caught up in the middle of the immigration debate. The decision to come to this country was not theirs. But America is the only home they have known and they have spent their young lives being good students, working hard, and staying out of trouble.

"The ability of these young people to contribute to the economic growth of our country, and to their own self-sufficiency, depends in large measure on their ability to further their education.

"Undocumented children in America are guaranteed access to public elementary and secondary schools by a 1982 Supreme Court ruling which held that a state cannot deny a free public K-12 education on the basis of immigration status. Erecting barriers and continuing to restrict the opportunity for undocumented children to have access to an affordable higher education denies them economic, social and intellectual benefits that will serve both them and our nation in the future.

"If comprehensive immigration reform is not initiated in 2010, the special needs and interests of undocumented U.S. high school students should be addressed through separate DREAM Act legislation that balances all of the competing considerations in a reasonable, rational way."

The letter also requested an amendment to the current version of the proposed legislation to make DREAM Act students eligible to federal grant aid, to effectively remove economic barriers to their higher education success.

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