DREAM Act a Nightmare for Romney

January 18, 2011; Source: DRMCAPITOL GROUP Channel | In a YouTube video uploaded by the DRM Capitol Group, an advocacy group for undocumented immigrant youth, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is confronted by one of the protesters who attended the Republican presidential candidate’s Tuesday night fundraising event at the Sheraton Hotel in New York City.

The video shows Lucy, a young woman who was brought to the United States when she was ten years old, asking the presidential hopeful if he would support the DREAM Act, a federal bill which would grant current, former, and future undocumented high-school graduates and GED recipients a pathway to U.S. citizenship through college or the armed services. “I already said, across the country, I would veto the DREAM Act,” the GOP frontrunner answered. “I already said, across the country, I would veto the Dream Act” the GOP frontrunner answered.

 

This is consistent with Romney’s hardline immigration stance which he reiterated at the GOP presidential debate on Monday.

“I absolutely believe that those who come here illegally should not be given favoritism or a special route to becoming permanent residents or citizens that’s not given to those people who have stayed in line legally. I just think we have to follow the law. I think that’s the right course,” he said when asked by Fox News political analyst Juan Williams whether he was alienating Latino voters. “I would veto the DREAM Act,” Romney said, if it included provisions that stated “if they go to school here long enough [and] get a degree here they can become permanent residents.” After applause from the audience, Romney added, “I think that’s a mistake. I think we have to follow the law and insist those who come here illegally ultimately return home, apply, and get in line with everyone else.”

The DRM Capitol Group, which released a statement recounting Romney’s interaction with Lucy, is now collecting signatures on its Web site to give Romney “the proof that he needs to support the DREAM Act in order to be even considered by Latinos.”

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly Nonprofit Newswire, January 18, 2012.

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Both Parties Propose Immigration Bills But Pass None

Immigration activists marched on the Capitol last October - Photo: Jelena Kopanka/Fi2W

Immigration activists in front of the Capitol. (Photo: Jelena Kopanka/Fi2W)

Democrats are thinking of introducing an immigration bill as early as December, CNN reported Monday. It is not clear what it would cover—possibly the DREAM Act—but apparently Congressional Democrats would like it to differentiate themselves from Republicans in order to secure Latino votes in 2012.

GOP lawmakers tend to focus on border security and enforcement. The National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act, for instance, passed the House Natural Resources Committee earlier this month and a vote in the Republican-controlled house is expected soon. The law would allow the U.S. Border Patrol to ignore environmental laws on federal lands including Glacier National Park and the Great Lakes.

The Scott Gardner Act is another Republican-sponsored bill and it seeks to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act by directing the U.S. Attorney General to take into federal custody any unauthorized immigrant arrested for a DWI or similar infraction by state and local law enforcement officials. The Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act likewise seeks to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act by penalizing states and other jurisdictions that block E-Verify and Secure Communities.

While trying to crack down on undocumented immigrants, Republican House members have simultaneously presented bills recently meant to attract foreign investors and high-skilled professionals. Rep. Jason Chaffetz introduced the Fairness of High-Skilled Immigrants Act which would eliminate country quotas for employment-based green cards. Rep. Raul Labrador proposed the American Innovation and Education Act of 2011 which would speed up green card applications for foreign-born grad students who have high-tech jobs waiting for them. These bills signify an acknowledgment in the GOP that immigration policy for legal immigrants needs to be reformed.

If the Democrats introduce anything, it will most likely be a bill that acquiesces to the GOP imperative for border security and enforcement while re-introducing DREAM Act provisions. Like all other federal immigration legislation, it will go nowhere. Fact is, nothing major will pass anytime soon. Not before the upcoming elections or during the 113th Congress, regardless of who takes control of the House of Representatives, Senate, and the White House.

Immigration laws that myopically emphasize border security and enforcement will not win the hearts of Latinos, even if this rapidly growing group of voters agrees with other Republican concepts. These proposals may pander to the conservative nativist base and pretend to address our nation’s economic woes, but at the end of the day, these measures skirt around the obvious need for comprehensive immigration reform, which many Latinos consider priority numero uno.

It is helpful to know where parties and politicians stand on immigration so we can hold them accountable. Party allegiance is not set in stone, a concept many of us are starting to embrace.

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds, October 27, 2011.

Reasonable State Responses to Immigration

dream act activist

While federal legislation stalls, some states are passing their own DREAM Acts. (Photo: dreamactivist/flickr)

Most of us have been transfixed by Alabama’s immigration law which surpasses all other state laws in its harshness and stringency.

The Department of Justice asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday to stop enforcement of Alabama’s HB 56, concerned that it could lead to racial discrimination. Advocacy groups also filed a separate appeal, citing the law’s immediate aftermath.

State immigration bills such as those passed in Alabama, Georgia and Arizona negatively impact not only immigrants and their families but society in general. They have wide-ranging externalities including lost productivity and revenues. They also have long-term implications for the well-being of our nation.

Fortunately, there are some states bucking the trend and providing more rational, productive and humane solutions to our broken immigration system.

A couple of weeks ago, Rhode Island’s Board of Governors for Higher Education, encouraged by Gov. Lincoln Chafee, approved the state’s version of the DREAM Act which will allow undocumented students to pay in-state college tuition beginning September 2012. Students without papers must show that they graduated from a Rhode Island high school which they attended for at least three years or received a GED certificate from the state. They must also sign an affidavit promising that they will pursue U.S. citizenship as soon as possible.

Last weekend, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the second half of his state’s DREAM Act. The first half, enacted in July, sanctioned private scholarships and loans for undocumented college students. These students, with the passage of the second bill, can now pay in-state tuition rates and apply for state aid.

The state DREAM Acts of Rhode Island and California, like other state versions of the stalled federal initiative to improve the prospects of young undocumented immigrants, does not include a path to citizenship. But they do allow motivated and able young people—in whom states have already invested public education—to obtain a college degree, earn better wages, pay taxes, contribute to the economy and give back to society.

Last Thursday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order requiring state agencies to make vital forms and instructions available in the six most common non-English languages spoken in the state. State agencies including the Office of Children & Family Services, Corrections, the health department, motor vehicles and welfare agencies will now have to provide free interpretation and translation services to assist the 13 percent of New Yorkers who do not speak English as their primary language. Cuomo argued that lawsuits and legislation have failed to address the problem and that access to state services can be a matter of life and death for some immigrants.

Finally, last week, the city commissioners of Dayton, Ohio voted to turn their city into an “immigrant friendly” destination with the explicit goal of replenishing the city’s shrinking immigrant community. The “Welcome Dayton” program seeks to reduce the barriers to immigrants who want to open new businesses and thereby spur investment in immigrant neighborhoods. The initiative aims to help immigrants by providing adults with ESL and literacy courses; actively involving local youth in community building; and encouraging cross-cultural events among Dayton’s cultural and arts organizations.

In California, Rhode Island, New York and Dayton, Ohio, rather than marginalizing immigrants and treating them as scapegoats for our difficult times, government is finding ways to integrate them. These state and city leaders see their immigrant populations as economically integral and as contributing members of society. They acknowledge that immigrants are crucial to our nation’s vitality and future.

One hopes that other states will be less reactionary—ala Alabama—and follow such reasonable responses to immigration.

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds, October 12, 2011.

Why Latinos Are Not Into Obama

President Barack Obama Approval Ratings by Race (Gallup)

President Barack Obama Approval Ratings by Race. (via Gallup)

The president has been calling on Latinos and he’s learning that they’re just not that into him.

Gallup’s latest polls show President Obama getting his lowest monthly job rating since taking office. Only four in ten approve of his job performance. The polls also reveal a precipitous decline in his approval among Latinos, a bad omen for Mr. Obama and his party who rely heavily on the community for votes. Just last January, 60 percent of Latinos said Mr. Obama was doing a fine job. Now, less than half – 48 percent – assess his performance favorably.

This should not come as a surprise for the man who once promised si se puede!

He has not delivered on his promise to reform the immigration system and comprehensive reform was not made a legislative priority. The President could not even make headway with the DREAM Act, one of the least toxic immigration initiatives. His administration is on track to deport more unauthorized immigrants during his first term than either of George W. Bush’s two terms. The desperation on the administration’s part to prove its law enforcement bona fides to conservatives has allowed immigration opponents to frame the debate.

It’s disappointing.

The tough economic times has not done Mr. Obama any favors either. Latinos, like most of us, are hurting, but they are hurting much more. The unemployment rate among Latinos is 11.3 percent, two points higher than whites. The poverty rate for Latinos in 2010 is 26.6 percent, 15.5 points higher than the national average and 16.6 points higher than whites. The median household wealth among Latinos plummeted 60 percent from 2005 to 2009; it only fell 16 percent among white households whose household wealth is 18 times that of their Latino neighbors.

No doubt the president and his party will keep on calling, meeting with Latino leaders, promising they still can and will deliver, but how can they really convince anybody considering their track record? Anything they say rings hollow and it is too late to do anything to change minds already made.

Republicans have also been calling, but Latinos hear loud and clear the anti-immigrant rhetoric that drowns any GOP offers to the Latino community.

The bad news for the president and both parties is that many Latinos will  sit 2012 out.

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds, September 20, 2011. Reposted on WNYC It’s a Free Country, September 23, 2011.

Marking 9/11 With Hope, Not Fear of the Other

groundzero memorial 

There was hope for immigrants and their families during George W. Bush’s presidency—the promise of change in our country’s immigration system—before September 11, 2001.

A Migration Policy Institute (MPI) report reminds us that “the U.S. system seemed poised for a major immigration reform in 2001,” before the attacks in New York and Washington, DC.

During the first nine months of that year, both chambers of Congress approved extensions of a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act which allowed unauthorized immigrants eligible for green cards to adjust their status without leaving the country. Bipartisan groups in both the House of Representatives and the Senate introduced versions of the DREAM Act which were received favorably by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Bipartisan support was also given to a pair of AgJOBS bills that had been introduced.

President Bush, who supported all these immigration reform initiatives, also met with Mexican President Vicente Fox five times during this period to strengthen the relationship between Mexico and the United States and to address migration issues that bedeviled both countries. The presidents even established a high-level working group mandated to develop a comprehensive bilateral migration deal.

On September 6, 2011, Bush and Fox formally endorsed a framework agreement that would have included a path to legalization for undocumented Mexicans in the U.S. Five days later, we were all shaken by the tragic events in Manhattan, Shanksville and D.C.

The trauma and fear of 9/11 squelched any dreams immigrants and their families might have had for immigration relief and resolution. “The public debates and new policy measures that followed initially conflated antiterrorism measures with immigration control,” writes the author of the MPI paper.

Most Americans never thought they’d see the day when the mainland would be attacked by foreign enemies, much less by a ragtag band of terrorists. In an instant, we lost our sense of safety and superiority.  We felt a profound insecurity about our place in the world. Our leaders, swayed by this sentiment, sealed our borders, targeted certain immigrant groups, and made life all the more difficult for immigrants and their loved ones.

Most of us, I think, feel a bit less threatened nowadays. We haven’t suffered another terrorist attack in the U.S. and Osama Bin Laden has been killed. While some of us might get nervous around September 11, there’s something else that is now keeping us fearful and insecure – our flailing economy and the inability of our leaders and “experts” to find a solution.  We feel far less optimistic about our future and our children’s chances.

This has led some of us, as in other times in our history, to look unkindly at the foreigner and vent our frustration and anger at people who share the same aspirations we have and American ideals we hold dear.  Individuals who work hard, contribute to our economy and society, and help keep our nation vibrant and strong.

As we mark the tenth anniversary of September 11, let us not be stirred by base emotions that diminish all of us and prevent the country from moving forward. Rather, let us be motivated by sentiments that have made this nation great—freedom, opportunity, equality—and have faith in our shared future.

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds, September 9, 2011.

Maryland’s DREAM Act Deferred

Washington’s inability to reform the country’s immigration system has left state lawmakers little choice but to address constituents’ immigration concerns themselves. The National Council of State Legislatures reports that during the first half of this year, 1,592 immigration-related bills and resolutions were introduced in the 50 states and Puerto Rico. That’s 16 percent more than in the same period last year. Most of these initiatives dealt with law enforcement, identification/driver’s licenses and employment.

Nine states went farther, though, passing education laws, mainly related to in-state tuition eligibility and financial assistance for immigrant populations. In May, Maryland’s General Assembly approved its version of the DREAM Act, which Gov. Martin O’Malley promptly signed.

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act was first introduced a decade ago by U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) and has since been introduced regularly but has yet to pass Congress. The statute would allow undocumented immigrants under 35 who came to the US before age 16 and earned a high school degree or its equivalent to apply for legal permanent resident status after living here for at least five years. Then, if they complete at least two years of college or military service and abide by the laws, they can apply for permanent legal status after a six-year wait.

Maryland’s DREAM Act is narrower and offers no path to citizenship. It merely establishes in-state tuition eligibility for undocumented youth who went to a state high school for at least three years and can prove that their parents pay taxes. After a couple of years in community college, these young immigrants can transfer to a public university.

Maryland’s DREAM Act was to have become law on July 1. But opponents managed to gather over 100,000 signatures for a petition, almost double the number needed to halt its implementation. The law will now be put up to a vote in a referendum in November 2012.

Those who signed the petition contend that Maryland shouldn’t and can’t afford to subsidize the education of undocumented youth. The Act’s supporters accuse the petition’s authors of using misleading information to get people to sign up and argue that the state’s DREAM Act grants undocumented students only some of the rights enjoyed by other high school graduates.

An estimated 65,000 undocumented youth graduate from American high schools each year, a fraction from Maryland schools.

Maryland’s Department of Legislative Services, the research arm of the General Assembly, calculates the state’s DREAM Act will cost $778,000 in fiscal year 2014 and rise to $3.5 million in fiscal year 2016. This is relatively miniscule compared to the state’s total higher ed expenditures, around $5 billion annually from fiscal years 2009 through 2011.

During economic hard times like ours, it’s understandable why some are fighting any budgetary outlay for Maryland’s DREAM Act.  But, over time, investing in educating Maryland’s undocumented youth could pay off.

The state has already seen these kids through years of schooling, and affordable college helps ensure a productive and educated workforce for Maryland and the rest of the US. College-educated immigrants would get better paying jobs and pay more in state and local taxes, and their lifetime contributions would more than cover the cost of Maryland’s subsidies.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers with college degrees in 2009 had median weekly earnings of $1,137, almost twice the average of what those with only a high school diploma earned. The unemployment rate for college-educated workers was 4.6 percent, 10 points lower than the rate for less educated workers.

Denying these young people the opportunity for a bright future could disenfranchise and marginalize them. And since they came here as children, didn’t choose to be undocumented, and consider themselves Americans, they are highly unlikely to leave willingly, especially in light of the Obama administration’s new policy which suspends deportation of undocumented immigrants who pose no threat to national security or public safety.

With tuition subsidy costs relatively low, and the life-long stakes high for the immigrants and the rest of society high, investing in immigrant youth through higher education can only be to everyone’s benefit.

Originally posted on Urban Institute’s MetroTrends Blog, August 22, 2011.

Obama Administration Signals DREAMer Reprieve

dream act activistOn Thursday Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano sent a letter to 22 Senators and White House Intergovernmental Affairs Director Cecila Muñoz issued a statement, both in essence saying that undocumented children and youth as well as others not deemed to be serious criminal threats will not be deported.

Napolitano’s letter announced that the Obama Administration has established a new process for handling deportation cases of DREAM Act-eligible students and other individuals.

The process calls for a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Justice (DOJ) working group to develop specific criteria to identify low-priority removal cases that should be considered for prosecutorial discretion. These criteria will be based on the “Morton Memo” which explains how ICE personnel should use their time, energy and resources in deporting undocumented immigrants and lists the “positive factors” that should be taken into consideration when deciding who should be deported.

These factors favor individuals who have lived in the U.S. since childhood, minors, the elderly, pregnant and nursing women, victims of serious crimes, veterans and members of the armed services, and individuals with serious disabilities or health problems. The working group will also develop a process for reviewing the 300,000 cases pending before immigration and federal courts that meet these specific criteria.

Cases scheduled for a hearing within the next couple of months and all 300,000 pending cases will be reviewed individually by ICE attorneys. These cases will be closed except in extraordinary circumstances, where the reviewing attorney must get the approval of a supervisor to move forward. Individuals whose cases are closed will be able to apply for certain immigration benefits, including work authorization. All applications for benefits will also be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Muñoz’s statement explained that this new strategy was developed

“to make sure we use those resources [that Congress gives the Executive Branch] in a way that puts public safety and national security first. If you were running a law enforcement agency anywhere in the world, you would target those who pose the greatest harm before those who do not. Our immigration enforcement work is focused the same way.”

This is welcome news. If the new process is fully and properly implemented, then DREAMers and other individuals whose cases meet the criteria outlined in the Morton Memo will no longer fear separation from their loved ones and adopted country.

Many questions remain however. Aside from work authorization, what other immigration benefits will be afforded to those whose cases have been dismissed? Will undocumented students be eligible for federal student loans?  What about the the millions of others who are not in deportation proceedings?

Comprehensive immigration reform would once and for all solve the many problems that beset our immigration system. But this is nonetheless a step in the right direction.

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds, August 19, 2011. Reposted on WNYC, It’s a Free Country.

Obama or Perry (or Romney) – Does it Make a Difference to Immigrants?

Immigration reform protest

 

The latest Rasmussen poll of likely Republican Primary voters finds Texas Governor Rick Perry leading the GOP pack of presidential contenders. He is trailed by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and the winner of last Saturday’s Iowa Ames Straw Poll Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann.

As the GOP whittles down its field of presidential candidates, it is worth looking at where these politicians stand on immigration and asking whether it ultimately matters who wins the presidency in 2012 when it comes to advancing policies and laws beneficial to immigrants and their families.

Some on the right see Perry as having an “immigration problem.” After all, he did sign a law allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state college tuition ten years ago, long before that became a major immigration issue nationwide.

The conservative Washington Times also points to his questioning Arizona for passing the draconian SB 1070, which resulted in a cascade of copycat anti-immigrant laws in other states, his criticism of the E-Verify program, and his purported support for open borders as evidence of Perry’s liberal immigration bona fides.

All this might give some the impression that the Texas governor would be good news for immigrants and their advocates. But as Feet in 2 Worlds clarified, Perry’s “open borders” policy is rather nuanced. It would involve a biometric identification system that tracks immigrants to make sure they paid their taxes and obeyed the law. All this as a requirement for two year work visas for migrant laborers.  Perry also tried, but failed, to pass a bill prohibiting sanctuary cities in his state.

Bottom line, it might not be enough for extreme hard-liners, but Perry’s immigration stance is one of enforcement. He calls for thousands of “boots on the ground” and predator drones in the air along the border with Mexico.

The National Catholic Reporter adds that Perry opposes any comprehensive immigration reform effort that includes “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants and most of the provisions of the federal DREAM Act. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro is quoted as accusing the governor of having “the most anti-Latino agenda in more than a generation.”

Mitt Romney also toes the party line and prioritizes enforcement. As Mitt Romney Central states – should anyone doubt – “securing the border is priority number one.” In addition, the presidential hopeful opposes “amnesty,” supports an employer verification system, and is against “sanctuary cities.” Particularly chilling for immigrants and their families are his proclamations that “illegal immigrants should be required to return to their home country” and “giving tuition breaks to the children of illegal immigrants needs to stop.”

Michelle Bachmann shares Perry’s and Romney’s views on immigration. At a town hall event in Greenville, South Carolina, she called for a wall to be erected along the border with Mexico and claimed that lax enforcement of immigration laws was a threat to the nation’s security. She promised that “as president of the United States, every mile, every yard, every foot, every inch will be covered on that southern border.”

So on the Republican side, the option is between one type of enforcement or another. No GOP candidate is talking about comprehensive immigration reform. Does this mean that despite little immigration-related action in his first term, the incumbent is still the better choice when it comes to improving the lives of millions of immigrants and their families?

In a certain light, it might not matter who wins the presidency when it comes to comprehensive reform.

President Obama did not pass CIR while both Houses of Congress were under Democratic control and any reform effort is now unlikely to occur due to the current political climate. Mr. Obama has chosen not to use his executive powers to push meaningful immigration changes such as the DREAM Act, one of the least controversial initiatives, or stop deportation proceedings. In fact, his administration has managed to deport a record number of immigrants, much more than his Republican predecessor. Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security unilaterally declared an end to Secure Communities agreements with state and local governments, saying states had no choice but to participate.  Last Thursday, the Board of Immigration Appeals issued a decision that immigrants arrested without a warrant will not be read their rights until they are placed in formal deportation proceedings.

Some argue that if the president’s party were to win control of both Houses of Congress again, then he could finally fulfill his promise to pass immigration reform. On the other hand, he still may not fulfill that promise, leaving immigrants and their families to live in constant uncertainty and anxiety.

Ultimately, it will be up to voters to decide whether they will support a Republican candidate who is crystal clear on where he or she stands, or a Democratic one who says all the right things but has yet to deliver.

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds, August 18, 2011. Re-posted on WNYC It’s a Free Country, August 18, 2011.

State DREAM Acts: Far from Fulfilling the Dream

Documented and undocumented youth rally for passage of the Dream Act in Times Square - Photo: Sarah Kramer

Frustrated by Washington’s inertia on immigration reform, many states have enacted their own immigration laws, mostly geared towards pushing undocumented immigrants out. State lawmakers have pursued a principle of attrition which anti-illegal immigration group NumbersUSA describes as the “enforcement of all the laws already on the books” at all levels of government to “make it extremely difficult for unauthorized persons to live and work in the United States.” This is accomplished by either imposing strict sanctions on employers who knowingly hire undocumented immigrants and/or enlisting local and state law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of people.

A few states have chosen a different tack and passed laws that aim to make the lives of certain undocumented immigrants a little bit better.  These sympathetic legislators are passing bills that have in mind the welfare and future of children and youth who were brought into the United States as minors by their parents and who consider America their home and themselves Americans.  These measures are touted as state versions of the federal DREAM Act, which would create a path to citizenship for undocumented young people.

Ten years ago, the Republican governor of Texas, Rick Perry, signed into law his state’s version of the DREAM Act, which allows in-state tuition for undocumented students who have lived in Texas for three years and either have obtained a GED or graduated from an accredited public or private school.

This month, Maryland was to enact a similar law for Dreamers – the moniker given to undocumented youth – so long as they prove that their parents paid taxes and that they have gone to high school in the state. But opponents of the statute were able to muster more than enough signatures for a petition to repeal the Maryland DREAM Act, and a referendum on the law will be held in 2012.

On Monday, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law his state’s own version and even hinted that he would support a measure allowing undocumented students to seek state-funded tuition aid.

While these initiatives are welcomed by Dreamers, their families and advocates, none address the fundamental dilemma faced by these young Americans: their undocumented status. In this sense, the DREAM Acts of California, Maryland and Texas are vastly different from the failed federal version which presents a way to citizenship for some young immigrants.

Dreamers in these few states may now envision a college degree, but can they see a secure and bright future for themselves and their families? Armed with a diploma, they will not be able to work legally and most likely not in the fields they studied.

Will they have to go underground? Or worse, will they leave their adopted country for places they don’t remember, but where they might be embraced and where their taxpayer subsidized education could be put to good use?

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds, July 28, 2011.

Raising Funds to Extend the Dream to Undocumented Students

July 4, 2011; Source: BakersfieldNow.com | The College Dream Fund, a nonprofit group in Bakersfield, Calif., awards scholarships to students who are denied access to government-sponsored financial aid and loans because of their immigration status. Its most recent fundraiser netted $25,000 — half of what it had hoped to raise.

The organization was founded by Sharon Mettler, a retired Kern County Superior Court Judge, and Jim Young, chancellor emeritus of the Kern Community College District. Mettler and Young believe that the American dream should be extended to deserving students who were brought to the United States at a very young age and know no other home. Young estimates that about 1,500 undocumented students graduated from Kern County high schools this year.

California might soon pitch in however and help these smart and hard-working young women and men get a college degree. Two bills have been introduced in the state legislature which would allow some undocumented students access to Cal grants, institutional aid and fee waivers at publicly funded colleges and would provide for the same privileges for private financial aid.

Until the federal government reforms our dysfunctional immigration system, states, nonprofits and private citizens will find ways to keep the dream alive for many young people who are American but in papers.

Originally posted on the Nonprofit Quarterly Nonprofit Newswire, July 11, 2011.