Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

One DREAM Comes True

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

One DREAM Comes True

Article excerpt


Heavier than the books Mariano Cardoso had to carry to class at Community College in Conn., was the weight of deportation order he lived with for nearly three years. Recently, the 23-year-old not only graduated with an associate degree in liberal arts, but he had the order of removal lifted thanks to a hard-fought, high-profile campaign.

"I feel finally free because I had always had that on my mind - that at any time I could be deported. And [carrying] that idea around ? really restricted me [from] focusing on whatever I wanted to do," says the Mexican immigrant whose family brought him to the United States when he was 22 months old.

With the help of his community; Connecticut Gov. Daniel P. Malloy; U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.; and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; and a lengthy petition, Cardoso had the deportation order halted. He says the process shouldn't be this arduous for students like him - dubbed DREAMers - who would be eligible for the DREAM Act if it passed.

The DREAM Act would grant undocumented immigrants who were 16 years old or younger when they came to the United States a path to legal status and, eventually, citizenship if they enroll in college or the military. Despite support from President Barack Obama, the bill has languished in Congress for a decade.

Adam Luna, political director for the pro-immigration reform group America's Voice, says outcomes like Cardoso's should be the norm, not a rare occurrence.

"What advocates are saying is, ?Why can't you do that for most people,'" he says.

GOP gains in Congress in 2010 dashed the DREAM Act's hopes for passage yet again, but Act advocates have been drumming up support for alternative measures to keep undocumented students in the country. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and 21 other senators expressed support for alternative measures in an April 13 letter to Obama, noting that Obama can grant "deferred action" for the deportation of DREAMers. A month earlier, Obama had denied that he has that power. However, representatives from the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the American Immigration Council, the Center for American Progress and former Immigration and Naturalization Services offi cials also issued a memorandum on April 29 observing that, as the head of the executive branch, Obama can "exercise discretion in deciding what cases to investigate and prosecute."

"Yes, Congress makes the laws, and only a change in the law can change the status of these students," says Luna, "but the president is in charge of how to implement the law," the letter stated.

Still, the legal argument for an executive order to shield DREAMers from deportation is murky. Ira Mehlman, media director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, agrees with Obama that a president does not have the constitutional power to essentially overrule a law. "This would clearly cross the line," he says.

What is clear, however, is that the number of deportations is on the rise. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, last year there were 393,000 deportations, up from 359,000 the previous year. It was the seventh consecutive record high. In addition, under the Obama administration the number of deportation deferrals has hit a record low, says Luna.

About 2.1 million undocumented youth would be eligible for the DREAM Act, according to a 2010 study by the Migration Policy Institute. The senators add that canceling the deportation of DREAM Act students conserves DHS resources, helping the department go after undocumented criminals. While it's clear that DHS's priority is criminals, Obama can put some specifi city behind that policy, says Luna, noting that immigrants can be dubbed "criminal aliens" simply by getting a traffic ticket.

Inconsistency in the System

Prerna Lal, founder of the immigration reform group DreamActivist and a law student at George Washington University, says each deportation case is different. …

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