Faust Voices Support for DREAM Act

University President Drew G. Faust publicly reaffirmed Harvard’s support for federal legislation that would allow illegal immigrant students to become permanent residents—a position shared by the Association of American Universities and all three representatives to the US congress whose districts include Harvard.

“The DREAM Act would throw a lifeline to these students who are already working hard in our middle and high schools and living in our communities by granting them the temporary legal status that would allow them to pursue postsecondary education,” Faust wrote in letters to Senators Edward M. Kennedy ’54-’56 and John F. Kerry, and Representative Michael E. Capuano. “I believe it is in our best interest to educate all students to their full potential—it vastly improves their lives and grows our communities and economy.”

Currently, undocumented immigrant children can only obtain permanent residency through their parents.

The 2009 DREAM Act—or the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act—was first introduced in Congress in March with the support of senior Congressional Democratic leaders including Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Russ Feingold, an Kennedy.

The legislation would make illegal immigrant students who graduate from U.S. high schools eligible to apply for conditional permanent residency if they plan to attend a college or university or if they plan to enter the military. Students can then go on to apply for citizenship once they earn a college degree or serve for two years in the military.

Similar legislation had been repeatedly proposed in both the Senate and the House since 2001, though it has never been brought to a floor vote as a stand-alone bill.

When the most recent legislation was first introduced in March, several students in the College’s Act On a Dream club brought two undocumented Harvard students to Faust’s office hours—a opportunity extended to students only a few times a year—and asked her to publicly back their cause.

A few months later, the student group organized a rally on May 1—international workers’ day—and amassed roughly 120 signatures in a petition to Faust.

Harvard has a tendency to have this domino effect,” said Melissa Tran ’10, a member of the organization. “We really hoped that getting Drew Faust to publicly support the DREAM Act would encourage other university presidents to do so.”

Faust’s stance on this issue is not unprecedented at Harvard, as the University has supported previous versions of the legislation, Harvard’s chief lobbyist Kevin Casey said.

Now that the bill has been reintroduced under the Obama administration, Casey said that Faust thought it an “opportune” time to “reconnect” with members of Congress who were already in support of the legislation.

But while students said they were hopeful that Faust’s gesture would help push the bill forward, Casey said that the timing of a possible vote was difficult to forecast, as “immigration issues are always difficult to gauge.”

—Staff writer Athena Y. Jiang can be reached at ajiang@fas.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer June Q. Wu can be reached at junewu@fas.harvard.edu.