Mixed Thoughts on DREAM Act Vote

While the University has been involved in multiple layers of support for a piece of legislation providing relief for undocumented students, many undergraduates and Harvard affiliates have also been rallying with several unaffiliated organizations on the state and national levels.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid introduced last week the possibility that this legislation—known as the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act—would make its way to the Senate floor this Tuesday. If passed, the Act would provide qualified undocumented youth with a six-year conditional path to citizenship upon the completion of two years of higher education or two years of military service.

In July, United We Dream—a national student-led organization that advocates for equal access to higher education—started DREAM University, a series of teach-ins that tour the nation, providing informal classes on immigration issues for undocumented students and related work.

The Student Immigrant Movement, a Mass. student group that advocates for equal rights for immigrant students, plans to hold a press conference today followed by a DREAM University teach-in and a vigil.

“SIM has done really phenomenal work,” said Colette S. Perold ’11, a member of the Student Immigration Movement as well as Harvard’s own Student Labor Action Movement.

Perold noted the “energy and enthusiasm” those involved have put forth in the past few days since Reid’s announcement last Tuesday.

“There’s a lot of work around here to push for this amendment to go the Senate for a vote,” said Perold, referring to the increased number of phone calls SIM members and others have made to the office of U.S. Senator Scott P. Brown of Mass. Brown has yet to declare publicly whether he supports the DREAM Act.

“I’m extremely hopeful for Tuesday,” Perold said. “Considering SIM’s track record, I cannot imagine that [the vote] will not have positive results on Tuesday.”

On the other side of the heated national debate surrounding the Act, Jim Gilchrist, founder and president of the immigration law enforcement advocacy group Minuteman Project, is not as optimistic.

“I don’t think it’ll get passed,” Gilchrist said. “But I don’t think it’ll get defeated by a large margin.”

Gilchrist added that his organization was not anti-immigration, but rather concerned about “fairness” to legal U.S. residents.

“We want to believe it’s a nation of people under the rule of law,” he said.

Maria Ospina, a College fellow in the department of romance languages and literatures who teaches several undocumented students in her class, has been following the struggles of her students. However, she too has doubts about Tuesday’s outcome.

“I am not very optimistic about it just because of the climate of the xenophobia in the U.S. that I’ve seen in recent months,” Ospina said, citing recent debates about Islam and the drug wars. She said she is glad that discussion over immigration reform has once again garnered national media attention.

“I’m not too optimistic,” she said, “but I’m crossing my fingers like everyone else.”

—Staff writer Xi Yu can be reached at xyu@college.harvard.edu.

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