Undocumented Students Deserve Equality and Aid Despite Their Illegal Status.

    On Oct. 13 the California Development,
    Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act was vetoed. The hopes of thousands of
    high school students have been squashed — terminated — under the foot of Gov.
    Arnold Schwarzenegger. But the failure to pass the D.R.E.A.M. Act goes beyond
    one person’s narrow decision. It is one of many consequences of our society’s
    lack of encouragement for critical analysis of the law, its prevalent, evolving
    racism and narrow views of complex social issues.

    This year, students joined together to demand a groundbreaking change that
    would finally allow undocumented students to feel equal to their peers, not
    alienated. By demanding the passage of the California D.R.E.A.M. Act, students
    were asking for a helping hand. They were asking simply for the possibility of
    hope. The hope that educators, peers the government and the general public
    could come to recognize and value their academic achievements, and finally give
    them a chance.

    Undocumented students face barriers and difficulties
    the rest of us cannot even imagine. Despite these challenges, many have still
    found a way to succeed academically. By making financial aid available,
    the D.R.E.A.M. Act would have made
    college a feasible option for these students. Furthermore, it would have done
    so at little or no cost to California taxpayers. In his op-ed article to the Los Angeles Times, state Sen. Gil
    Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) explained the D.R.E.A.M. Act only pertains to
    noncompetitive grants, so there would be no chance of services being diverted
    from citizens to noncitizens. In fact, the resource pool under discussion in
    the D.R.E.A.M. Act is under-utilized. Cedillo wrote on May 19 that “during the
    past two academic years, only 64 percent of allocated grants were awarded. Many
    students are not aware of the statute on Entitlement grants, and allotted funds
    go unclaimed.” Essentially, a large
    sum of money is wasted each year. It is irrational that we would prefer to keep
    this money locked up, rather than make it available for all deserving students.

    During the D.R.E.A.M. Act campaign at UCSD,
    many students were asked the question: “Do you think students have a right to
    pursue their dreams of higher education?” There was not one student that
    answered “no” to the question. But when we would explain to our fellow students
    that the ones pursuing the dream were unauthorized immigrants, their
    expressions and even their answers would often change.

    What is it that makes undocumented
    immigrants subhuman? What is it that makes these specific students less than
    anyone else in this country? “They are criminals, they broke the law, they do
    not deserve to be rewarded for it,” is the commonly heard core of much
    anti-immigrant rhetoric. It is surprising how fearful of and devoted to the law
    people become when talking about illegal immigration.

    All of a sudden, people seem to forget that
    the law is not the almighty ruler of society but that society is the creator of
    the law. People seem to forget that for many years it was once illegal for women
    to vote. People seem to forget that it was illegal for a Chinese immigrant to
    become a U.S. citizen because they were believed to be “inferior.” Unquestioned
    commitment to immoral laws has, for centuries, plagued our republic. This
    commitment to immoral laws is merely an evolution, a translation of
    the hate and
    racism that has stained our country for centuries. If it is not the blacks,
    it’s the immigrants or the gays or the women. There always seems to be a
    scapegoat on whom society blames its problems.

    This
    unquestioned commitment to the law allows immoral laws to prevail, and creates
    a pathway through which the cancers of hate and inhumanity can metastasize.
    Anti-immigration politicians can’t deny higher education to undocumented
    immigrants, because that would categorize them as racists and nobody likes to
    be called a racist. So, what can they do to block illegal students from
    institutions of higher education. It’s as if the politicians use the following
    reasoning: “Since unauthorized immigrants don’t have money and school is
    expensive, let’s deny them financial aid! It solves all of our problems … No
    one gets to call us racist and education remains unattainable.”

    Finally, the immigration issue is a complex
    one. Immigrants do not really want to risk their lives at the United
    States-Mexico border, be oppressed or be
    treated with disrespect. Immigrants do not really want to be invisible. What
    are the incredibly strong forces that impel people to migrate? Millions of
    people in Latin American countries lie in conditions of dire poverty, due in
    large part to U.S. economic policies such as the Farm Bill. Illegal immigrants
    don’t risk their lives to come to the United States because they are criminals;
    they come to the United States so that they can feed their families.

    As a society we must think
    about the social issues critically before we can spit out solutions. Denying
    social services to immigrants is not a solution; it is only inhumane. Denying
    social
    services creates subhuman demographics within society and it propagates hate.
    The bigger person can pick on the littler one and the little one can always
    pick on the subhuman — in this case the illegal immigrant. Even if the
    D.R.E.A.M. Act were a financial burden for taxpayers, it would still be
    unacceptable to think that education or any social benefit should be denied to
    a person on the basis of their immigration status. Society must start to think
    critically about the way it allows government to enact legislation. Citizens
    must start to be critical, and this means evaluating our laws on the basis of
    their moral merits. In the mean time, undocumented students and oppressed
    people all over the world will still dream, still fight and still continue to
    learn. The path is as easy or as hard as when they started and they will not
    turn back.

    Bakal and Lima are active members of UCSD Student/Migrant Rights
    Awareness, and Young serves as A.S. vice president of external affairs.

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