A bill that would grant amnesty to qualified undocumented youth may reach the floor of the U.S. Senate next week, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid of Nev. announced on Tuesday.
While some Senate Republicans have claimed that the announcement is a ploy for political gain, proponents of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act—which would provide qualified undocumented youth with a six-year-long conditional path to citizenship upon the completion of two years of higher education or two years of military service—are still hopeful of the bill’s potential realization.
Harvard College Act on a Dream, the campus organization that engages students in ensuring equality for all immigrants, was contacted by U.S. Senator Barbara L. Boxer of Calif. on Tuesday. Boxer requested the testimonies of undocumented students that the organization had been collecting, according to Act on a Dream Co-Director Melissa V. Perez ’13.
“What we’ve been advocating for is for the DREAM Act to pass as a bill separate from a bill for comprehensive immigration reform,” Perez said. “If it does pass, it will be a very large step toward comprehensive immigration reform.”
Though the issue of immigration reform had been on the national agenda for several years, the case of Harvard sophomore Eric Balderas ’13 brought the question directly to campus this summer.
Balderas, who illegally immigrated to the United States from Mexico with his family at the age of 4, was detained by immigration authorities on June 7 when he tried to use his Harvard identification to board a plane from his hometown of San Antonio, Texas to Boston.
Two weeks later, Balderas was granted permission to stay in the United States indefinitely. While U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement can still revoke the deferral, as of now, Balderas may continue studying at Harvard without facing the threat of deportation.
Yesterday afternoon, University President Drew G. Faust and Balderas thanked U.S. Senator Richard J. Durbin of Ill., who helped Balderas attain his deferred action status during a brief meeting in Washington, D.C.
“These young men and women are working hard in school and are dedicated to a future living in and contributing to our communities or serving in the military,” said Faust in the released statement. “I believe it is in our best interest to educate all students to their full potential.”
Faust has repeatedly expressed support for the DREAM Act, while the University’s admissions process has remained blind to citizenship because it accepts students from all over the world.
But those who oppose the DREAM Act contend that the broad amnesty policy will not fix the problems the legislation intends to solve.
Roy H. Beck, president of NumbersUSA, an immigration reduction group, said that the DREAM Act is not written “to deal with people that they claim it’s for,” and will not solve the problem of companies hiring illegal immigrants.
“It creates a panic, wide amnesty instead of a narrow amnesty,” Beck said. “If it were limited to people like Eric, and did away with the jobs magnet, then it would pass easily, but it’s not going to pass.”
But according to Mario Rodas, a Harvard Extension School student who immigrated to the United States illegally but was granted permanent resident status, Balderas’ story directly illustrates an issue that deserves attention.
“There are many students like Eric that have the potential to go to all these great schools,” said Rodas. “The problem is that once they graduate, they will not be able to use their degrees. I feel that is very frustrating.”
Reflecting on the events of the summer, Balderas said they demonstrated young immigrants’ merits.
“It showed what kind of people we are, and [that] as young immigrants we strived,” Balderas said.
—Staff writer Xi Yu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.