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DREAM Act awaits Senate vote
Erik Dodge
Antelope Staff

Carlos barely remembers his trip across the U.S.-Mexican border.

“I remember I was cramping up and I was crying the whole time. It was just my mom and I in a little compartment of an RV,” he said.

He had no idea it was illegal to enter the country.

“When we came over here I was six, so I had no way of knowing or asking. At that age you don’t think of things like that,” he said.

Carlos did well in high school and graduated in the top ten percent of his class. But because he was from Mexico and did not have a social security number, his options where limited.

Even getting to high school was nerve racking because he could not get a driver's license.

“During high school you worry about getting pulled over. It’s a constant worry. I guess you never know what’s going to happen,” he said.

He thought he would just work after high school to help his family, but a school counselor pointed him out as a promising student, and he was recruited to attend UNK.     

After graduating, Carlos found his prospects for work slim. He needed someone to sponsor his work visa in order to get a job—support that never came.

Carlos is one of the undocumented students that would benefit from the DREAM Act the Senate is scheduled to vote on this week. The DREAM Act, which passed the House of Representatives Dec. 8, would allow undocumented immigrants under the age of 35, who were under 16 when they entered the country at least five years ago, a pathway to citizenship.

These students could apply for conditional permanent resident status upon graduation from high school or acceptance into college. Anyone could be disqualified if he committed a crime, posed a security threat, or for certain other reasons. Those who qualify would have to complete two years of college, or serve two years in the military and maintain good moral character, to become legal residents.

Opponents of the act have argued that it will encourage more illegal immigration and reward those who have already broken the law by entering the country illegally. Director of Multicultural Affairs Juan Guzman said qualifying for relief from the DREAM Act would not be easy but would encourage those already here illegally to invest in their communities.

Guzman, a Grand Island Multicultural Coalition Life Time Achievement Award winner, said the legislation would benefit the country as well as the immigrants. “They’re going to start buying houses. They’re going to start buying cars.

“The only reason why they don’t do that now is because they don’t know what is going to happen to them. In fact, I know that a lot of families will say they will pay for their kid’s education, but right now they don’t like doing that because they don’t know if they are going to be sent back.”

Senator Ben Nelson said on his website that he will not support any legislation that does not add jobs or add to the military or economy, so he will not support the DREAM Act.

“In addition, I think that it must be part of an overall comprehensive solution to immigration once we have the border secured and not until then,” he said on a Nov. 29 website post.

An estimated 800,000 undocumented students would qualify under the DREAM Act, according to the National Immigration Law Center. According to the Department of Homeland Security, 10.8 million illegal immigrants lived in the U.S in 2009.

The DREAM Act was originally introduced in 2001, and even with its recent progress in Congress, Carlos is not getting his hopes up.

“It’s hard to keep hope when it’s been around so long. I’m to the point now where I don’t want to get my hopes up. I’ve been at that point before and it’s a big letdown,” he said.

Editor's note: Carlos' name was changed to protect his identity.

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