COSA urges equal access for aliens

    The Coalition of Student Advocates held an educational forum on Feb. 12 aimed to educate attendants about the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, a bill that is up for passage in the U.S. Congress.

    COSA’s primary cause is to pass the D.R.E.A.M. Act as law in the United States to allow undocumented students to have the same educational opportunities as U.S. citizens. During the forum, COSA President Ricardo Leyva stated that there are as many as 2.3 million undocumented people living in the United States, and out of those, 50,000 to 70,000 are prospective students between the ages of 18 and 25.

    Guest speakers were a part of the forum as well, including San Diego City College student Ericka Gonzales. She spoke about her hardships while living in the United States for 12 years as an undocumented student who had college aspirations. Gonzales said she had to overcome the obstacles of not having a social security number to attain employment, a driver’s license as valid identification, nor the means to finance a college education to study in the United States. Even the distribution of scholarships and small Cal Grants isn’t enough to pay for most college tuitions, Gonzales said.

    “”Sometimes it’s really hard,”” Gonzales said. “”You constantly think about what to do next, especially when the scholarship is gone. There’s just no money to pay for college.””

    If the D.R.E.A.M. Act is passed, it will allow certain undocumented students to have the privilege of becoming “”lawful residents of the United States”” to attain higher education. There are rules and regulations to the act, including being under the age of 21 at the time of application for adjustment, having a high school diploma at the time of application and having lived in the United States for at least five years prior to the date of enactment.

    As with many acts and policies waiting to be passed in Congress, the D.R.E.A.M. Act faces many barriers in establishing its enactment.

    “”I feel like [Congress] is almost ignoring us,”” said COSA Vice President Abdul Aboushadi. “”They have other priority issues, but they have to know that it’s something not to be ignored. There are millions of people affected by this issue.””

    When asked how long it will take for the act to be passed, Aboushadi said, “”It might not pass at all, which is why we’re trying hard to facilitate it. But in the most part, it may take two years.””

    Despite the apparent difficulty in passing the D.R.E.A.M. Act into law, the government is not ignoring the issue in its entirety. A member of COSA stated that Sen. Tom Daschle is introducing an education bill that addresses the issue of giving privileges to undocumented students, but it is a large bill and expensive to pass. He is also reintroducing the Student Adjustment Act.

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