“Illegal Alien”

A term with a harsh connotation. A term with single a classification: CRIMINAL.

And in all sense under many laws, illegal aliens are criminals but the crime has greater meaning than anyone would consider. Back in their homeland these criminals were facing poverty, rape, and/or famine. When they heard the US could offer something better they embarked on a path toward that better life. Leaving behind their family and even risking their own life to get here.

But once here in the US their classification became a greater crime. A crime that legal US citizens look down on. Simply because many consider illegal aliens to be: Drug dealers, pimps or rapists.

So when legislation brings in proposals to create a path for legal residency, the bills are never passed. In my due opinion, I feel that the issue has a lot to do with the term and what comes to mind when it is talked about. The term alone sounds awful, harsh and degrading, low and unwanted.

And you hear of these stories in the news and how anti-immigration bills make the US “safer,” But what sense, may I ask, because these illegal aliens are already here. And what what’s also not considered is that they are honors students trying to get an education, they are the farm workers who picked the fruit on your table, they are the cooks who made your food at the restaurant, and they are the maids who vacuumed your carpet clean.

So let’s get more personal here. This last, lame duck session when the DREAM Act failed to pass, did you consider the students, the maids, and the farm workers? I do hope so. Because those people aren’t here to ask for free welfare and they aren‘t here to take your job. These illegal aliens came here looking for a better life and an education.

An education that means more purpose than it’s use. Just in students alone an estimated “65,000 young people in the United States graduate from high school” as undocumented students (illegal aliens). In many cases these illegal aliens “watch their friends go off to college or work, and discover that it is [almost] impossible for them to do the same”

A mother voice tells you that she brought her children here for a better life and she “can’t imagine my [her] in Colombia. They think like Americans, and it wouldn’t be fair to them, with their desire for educations.” –

In grand regards I agree, it’s NOT fair. It’s unfair that such classification places all illegal aliens on the same boat, because not all of them are the same. And many of them are students, students who are trying to make the most who what is offered to them.

But what is much more sad is the fact that a “generation of undocumented children is coming of age, and lawmakers haven’t figured out such cases should be treated. Some states have considered whether to extend in-state college tuition benefits to illegal students; but such proposals haven’t gotten very far. On the federal level, a bipartisan group of senators and representatives sponsored bills like Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act.” But still nothing…

And these students are waiting and fighting, they haven’t lost hope. Recently in California, the California Dream Act (add link to my post) passed the California’s state Assembly. These undocumented students are not taking the slots of Americans. They still have to pay their own way. And yet, some still refer to them as criminals.

Regardless, the state Senate is expected to pass the California Dream Act and there is a good chance Gov. Jerry Brown will sign it into law.”

And yet the term is only but the greatest struggle that keeps legislation from any reform.

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The California Dream Act

Things are looking swell just about now. Well, in California for the most part, and that is to say for many AB540 students.

On Tuesday, March 15, 2011 lawmakers in the California Higher Education Committee of the Assembly passed proposals AB130 and AB131.  Know as the “California Dream Act”, these bills would grant financial aid and scholarships to AB540 students enrolled in California State Universities, the California Community Colleges, or in Universities of California, and technical schools.  

The  basic summaries of the bills AB131 and Ab130 state:

Enacts the California Dream Act f 2011. Allows a non-resident pursuant to AB 540 law (who has attended, for 3 or more years, and graduated from a secondary school) to apply for and participate in all institutional student aid programs administered by the UC, CSU, and, CCC, including the CCC Board of Governor’s fee waiver. The number of aid awards to California residents may not be diminished as a result of this provision

Cedillo AB130

Allows a non-resident pursuant to AB 540 law (who has attended, for 3 or more years, and graduated from a secondary school) to apply for and participate in any student financial aid program administered by the state to the full extent permitted by federal law. Requires the Student Aid Commission to establish procedures and forms that enable those persons who are exempt to apply for all financial aid programs.

Cedillo AB131

Dozens of similar proposals  had been introduced in previous years, but were always vetoed by former Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Though the proposals have not been approved or vetoed, a new Governor holds the seat, and many are hoping that the proposals will pass!  

If passed, the proposals would take effect January 1, 2012. According to Alcocer an “estimated 75 percent of undocumented students would receive $4 million of financial aid under AB 130, and 50 percent of them would be eligible for Cal Grants up to about $3 million under AB 131

Many state that if the bill pass it would be a burden to those paying taxes. Rather to is seems like a free pass for undocumented students to obtain an education, an education that will serve of no purpose if they can’t get a job after graduation.

But it isn’t exactly the case, in fact many of these students already hold jobs and granting them financial aid would relive a grand financial burden, giving them more time to focus on their studies and later begin the process towards legally residency. Where then after they would be able to use the degrees they hold, and become grand contributors to American society.

Oh but wait, did this isn’t everything many state, those against these proposals feel that passing such would create incentives/lure more immigrants (college bound students) to come into the country. Well, that wouldn’t be the case, because the bills would not grant these immigrants any aid; there are clear and specific criteria which must be met entirely in order to receive any funds. That being the case if any student decided to immigrate to California for this aid, he or she would be out of luck and better of in the country to which he or she was originally studying in, because the state would not grant him or her any money.

Last key misconception to address; these students aren’t taking anyone else’s financial aid. The provisions say that the aid would be for everyone, only a select few would relieve financial aid. That is to say AB 131 has been edited to ensure that Cal Grants will not be reduced for students that are legal residents, AB540 students would be the last to receive and aid, and not all would get it.

It may not be the DREAM Act many students had in mind, but it will be of great assistance to them, especially for those attending Universities of California, because tuition for such schools is higher than any other in the public schooling system.

Final hearings (approval or veto) for these proposals will be this coming May, the day exactly is not yet known.

Que? Its Not Just a Latino Issue!

What comes to mind when you think of undocumented student? What connotations can you associate with those terms? But wait, let me guess for you? Did you picture someone of color? A Latino?

WHOAH WHOAH! Hold your horses there!

 IT IS NOT JUST A LATINO ISSUE!

That is probably the truest statement ever said! This whole matter on immigration isn’t just about Latinos.

You don’t believe me yet? Have you heard about Ju Hong? He is an Ab540 student running for ASUC Student Senate at UC Berkeley. And Beleza Chan working for social justice and organizing students for the passage of immigration reform.

But the students above aren’t the only ones; they are the few who’ve come out. There are others, thousands of them; students from Germany, China, Nigeria, Russia and other place not ever considered. It’s a stereotype! And it should not be ignored.

The question that remains now is, how did they get here? Many of these non-latino undocumented students came here legally, but due to many reasons, like expired visas, they went from documented to undocumented.

And though there are thousands of them here it they are invisible and well hidden. On the one hand it many seem like life easy because they aren’t being profiled as undocumented, but on another hand “they are torn and frightened, fighting everyday in ways no one can understand, hoping they don’t lose the friends and family they have.” And what makes it  harder for these non-latino students to come out, is isolation and loneliness, often they know no one who stands in the same position. As Ju explains

“I didn’t know anyone else who was Asian and undocumented when I was growing up. I think if other undocumented Asians knew other Asians who were undocumented, they wouldn’t feel so alone and isolated.”

Let’s face the truth, America is a melting pot. And it’s about time we come to see that Latinos are not the only ones who need and want reform, there are other ethnic groups who feel the same way. It is time for fingers to come down, this just proves that you can’t identify an undocumented student based on ethinc attributes. It is much more than just a Latino issue!