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Schools support DREAM Act for undocumented students

The ultimate goal of most motivated high school students is to continue their education at a college or university. But some students have a harder road than others.

Four such students made impassioned pleas to the Federal Way School Board during its Jan. 22 meeting regarding the much-publicized DREAM Act.

The students hailed from Federal Way High School and asked the board to pass a resolution supporting the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to legal residency and citizenship to college-bound, undocumented students who have been educated in the United States.

“This bill, if passed, will provide tremendous opportunities for my undocumented friends,” Federal Way sophomore Jenesis Garcia said. “Their stories inspire me to come forward to fight for justice. It will be a change for future generations for students whose parents come searching for the American dream and who are wanting to go to college.”

Under current regulations, children who immigrate to the United States from another country can only obtain permanent status through their parents and may not independently apply for residency. Such children are allowed to attend and complete a public education, but upon graduation, are not allowed to attend college in many states.

Further, without proof of legal immigration status, such children are generally not issued driver’s licenses or Social Security cards, and cannot legally work.

The Federal Way School Board threw its hat into the ring along with several other school districts around Washington when it voted unanimously Tuesday to support the DREAM Act in the form of a resolution.

“All students should have the opportunity to pursue higher education,” said Federal Way senior Noe Flores-Montoya. “It does not make any sense for their talents to go to waste.”

On the federal scale, the act is expected to be re-introduced to the Senate and House of Representatives in the near future. The original bill was introduced in 2001.  The federal DREAM Act bill would provide conditional permanent residency to certain illegal aliens of good moral character who graduate from U.S. high schools, arrived in the United States as minors, and lived in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill’s enactment.

If they were to complete two years in the military or two years at a four-year institution of higher learning, they would obtain temporary residency for a six-year period. Within the six-year period, they may qualify for permanent residency if they have “acquired a degree from an institution of higher education in the United States or [have] completed at least two years, in good standing, in a program for a bachelor’s degree or higher degree in the United States” or have “served in the armed services for at least two years and, if discharged, [have] received an honorable discharge.”

“It’s an excellent opportunity to allow all students, not just our students who are documented, to reach their goals,” said school board member Ed Barney. “But we need to use caution because we don’t have funds for a lot of things. I support the resolution, as long as they use common sense in funding for these types of programs.”

Both Garcia and Flores-Montoya are a part of Fuerte at Federal Way High. The after-school club is made up of mostly Latino students with the dream of going to college one day.

“What you shared shouldn’t be a dream, it should be a reality,” said board member Claire Wilson. “You are a remarkable group of young people and your parents and community should be proud.”

 

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