If Congress has the courage to pass the bipartisan legislation proposed in the House and Senate on March 26, 2009 the Dream may well come true this year for millions of undocumented students in the United States. These are the students who were brought into the United States as children and who have grown up thinking of themselves as American in all ways only to hit a brick wall once they graduate college and find that entry into the working world is effectively denied them. Many have struggled through college even while working more than one job so as to pay tuition and also contribute to the upkeep of their undocumented parents. As hard as they try, however, they can never make the American Dream their own, because no matter how many degrees they earn, how bright and determined they maybe, they cannot work legally in this country.
This legislation has been proposed on several occasions since its first introduction in 2001. Although it has gained increasing support and is probably the least controversial of any immigration reform, the bill has been defeated on each occasion. The version currently before the House would offer a path to legal residency for undocumented individuals who:
1. were brought into the US before the age of 16
2. are currently under the age of 30
3. have lived in the United States for at least 5 years
4. have graduated from High School or have a GED
5. are of “good moral character”
6. have attended college or enlist in the military for 2 years and receive an honorable discharge.
On April 21, 2009 the College Board released a report entitled “Young Dreams on Hold: The College Dreams of Undocumented Students”. The report lays out in graphic terms the terrible cost to these young adults who do everything “right” but are still denied the opportunity to become contributing members of our society. Despite the well documented cost to these individuals as well as to our society as a whole, passage of this legislation is by no means a foregone conclusion. Although the House of Representatives under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi will probably pass the bill with ease, the legislation may well stall in the Senate where the Democrats lack a fillibuster-proof majority.