A group of Harvard students and community members gathered on the steps of Widener Library Saturday afternoon to show support for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, commonly referred to as the DREAM Act.
Currently, children raised in the United States without documentation graduate from U.S. high schools with few options to receive financial aid for college or obtain legal status.
“The DREAM Act is something we should all support,” said Carly L. Rush, a Harvard Kennedy School student. “I’m here with my fellow Harvard students and students around the country fighting for a just cause.”
Emilio R. Vicente and Jeanette M. Acosta, both Kennedy School students, organized the Wake Up Harvard rally for the DREAM Act.
“We’re hoping to raise awareness and show solidarity,” Vicente said. “I’m a dreamer myself, and it’s common sense to give students the opportunity to go to college and get a job. It will let them reach their full potential.”
Vicente and Acosta said the event was a kickoff for a coalition among university campuses for the DREAM Act.
“Our vision for the future is to have an Ivy League-wide DREAM Act coalition,” Acosta said. “There’s a solidarity that’s lacking on the east coast. We hope to bring institutions together and build up universities that don’t already have an organization to fight for humane legislation.”
The organizers made a banner for supporters to sign, which they plan to send to Senator Scott P. Brown’s office. Brown was opposed to the DREAM Act, calling it “back door amnesty” last December at a Salvation Army charity event in downtown Boston.
“It’s our little gift to him,” Acosta said.
Vicente and Acosta led the group in a series of chants including, “hey, hey, ho, ho, Senator Brown has got to go” and “education, not deportation.”
“I know a number of people who aren’t documented and don’t have the opportunity to go college because of a nine digit number,” said Pierre R. Berastain ’11. “They’re the cream of the crop and want to give back to the country, but they can’t get an education. It’s an injustice.”
The DREAM Act, first introduced to the Senate in 2001, was most recently reintroduced in the House of Representatives in 2009. Although the bill passed in the House, it was stopped in a Senate filibuster, falling four votes short of the necessary 60.
The DREAM Act would help those who are under the age of 35, arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16, have resided continuously in the U.S. for five years, have graduated from a U.S. high school or obtained a general education diploma, and have “good moral character.”
If these students were to complete college or enlist in the armed forces for two years, they would obtain temporary residence for a six-year period.
University President Drew G. Faust previously has advocated for the measure. Faust’s support of the DREAM Act was particularly salient in June 2010, when Eric Balderas ’13, an undocumented Harvard student, was detained by the authorities and faced possible deportation to Mexico. Balderas was ultimately able to continue his studies at the College, but the incident sparked debate about the measure across campus.