posted 2012-04-07 16:27:27

NYPIRG Hosts DREAM Act Teach-in

Undocumented students speak out

Nikelle Riggs--Contributing Writer

The New York Public Interest Research Group hosted a DREAM Act teach-in March 21 in Thomas Hunter Hall to discuss the legislation that will allow undocumented students to be awarded money from the Tuition Assistance Program. Ten students during the teach-in’s question and answer segment stood up and confessed their undocumented status in public for the first time in a bold display of courage.

“We had one of the best events I have ever seen at Hunter College,” declared Kevin Stump, project coordinator of NYP- IRG at Hunter.

During the teach-in members of NYP- IRG, the New York Immigration Coalition, the Undergraduate Student Government and the Hunter College DREAM Team came together to offer details about the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) legislation which has been relegated and accepted by members of congress and the public since its introduction in 2001. Stump said, “because the federal government has failed to pass adequate immigration reform, it is the state’s responsibility to give all of our community members access to an affordable education.”

If congress were to pass the DREAM Act, students who have lived in the United States for the majority of their lives undocumented would have to complete two years of a Bachelor’s degree or active military service within a span of six years in order to qualify for government money. During these six years they would achieve conditional permanent residency. After completing the requirements students could then apply to become permanent citizens.

The Education and Equity for DREAM- ers Act, also discussed at the teach-in, would allow undocumented students access to the free financial aid awarded through TAP as well as to hold 529 savings plans. Eliana Mendoza was present at the teach-in representing Hunter’s DREAM Team and said that “for the New York DREAM Act, the very core of being able to access state financial aid to pay for college is the most positive advancement for undocumented students.”

One complaint about the legislation is that as undocumented students begin to obtain free aid other legal students would have to then need to compete. According to the Fiscal Policy Institute, extending TAP to include eligible undocumented students would increase TAP expenditures by roughly $17 million, or about two percent of the $885 million TAP budget.

“This was surreal. I learned about the pangs of the undocumented life and saw those who suffer through it expose themselves. A supremely educational, emotional, and enlightening experience,” said Eli Cohen, USG Student Welfare Com- missioner, of the event.

“I am empowered and humbled to be a part of this very important movement and strongly encourage others to get involved” said Stump.

“I will not let my status define who I am or the course of my future. I am no longer afraid or ashamed to say that I am undocumented and with that I gain empowerment for myself and my community,” said one of the members of Hunter’s DREAM Team.