More than 3 million young people graduate from U.S. high schools each year. While many of them will go on to pursue a higher education, 65,000 students are denied this opportunity because of their immigration status, unable to receive “in-state tuition rates, state and federal grants and loans, most private scholarships, and the ability to legally work their way through college.”
Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) have introduced the DREAM Act to help rectify this situation. Their bill would set up a path for undocumented immigrants to obtain legal residency. As Durbin explained in a recent op-ed for The Hill:
They came here with their parents at an age when they were too young to understand the consequences of their actions. And we do not have a tradition that punishes children for the choices of their parents. [...]
Our bill would give immigrant students the chance to become legal residents if they came here as children, are long-term U.S. residents, have good moral character, and attend college or enlist in the military for at least two years.
According to the College Board, the DREAM Act would provide an estimated 360,000 undocumented high school graduates with a “legal means to work and attend college,” and provide incentives for another 715,000 children between the ages of five and 17 to finish high school and pursue postsecondary education.
Yesterday, five immigrants dressed in academic caps and gowns staged a sit-in at Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) Tucson, AZ office and called on him to co-sponsor the DREAM Act. Four of them — including three who are undocumented — were arrested on misdemeanor trespassing charges and are “expected to face deportation proceedings.” The New York Times notes that it’s “the first time students have directly risked deportation in an effort to prompt Congress to take up a bill that would benefit illegal immigrant youths.” Approximately 100 people protested outside McCain’s office in solidarity.
The protest was led by 24-year-old Mohammad Abdollahi, who arrived in the United States from Iran with his parents at age 3. According to the Michigan Messenger, “because of an immigration paperwork foul up,” he “has been in the country illegally for many years.” Returning for Iran could be deadly for Abdollahi since he is gay, and Iran is known for putting LGBT individuals to death. Watch a local KOLD news report on the sit-in, including interviews with the students: