Adelante! pushes for campus endorsement of DREAM Act

By Emma WestRasmus

Macalester may soon join a growing number of colleges and universities across the country that are putting institutional support behind the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act, a piece of federal legislation that would expand college access to undocumented students as a path to permanent legal status. Adelante!, Macalester’s latino/a student organization is leading the effort to have the college publicly offer institutional support for the legislation, and so far it has received backing from a large number students, faculty, staff and administrators. President Brian Rosenberg has written a letter of personal support for the school to fully get behind the legislation and go on record as an institution in support of the bill. Adelante! will now progress onto the next stage in the process and will present to the Social Responsibility Committee (SRC) at the committee’s meeting on March 19. The SRC will make a recommendation to the president with their advice about how to proceed, and the final decision will rest on President Rosenberg. “[The DREAM Act] is something we’ve been passionate about for a long time,” said Adelante! co-chair Jocelyne Cardona ’14. “We want to be another voice saying we need to take this to Congress.” “Right now is the time,” Cardona said. “I’m documented, but people I know are not. It’s not their fault, and they’re no different from us. A social security number is all that separates us.” If President Rosenberg were to decide to have the college back the DREAM Act, the school would send letters to the Minnesota congressional delegation and join Augsburg College and the University of Minnesota as Minnesota higher education institutions publicly endorsing the legislation. In a letter to the U.S. Senators from Minnesota dated Februrary 20, 2012, President Rosenberg expressed his personal support for the DREAM Act and said he “urged its approval by Congress.” “The DREAM Act is a fair and compassionate route to bring more talented and energetic young people into the main n the letter. “All they ask for is a chance to legally contribute in ways that enrich Minnesota and the entire country.” Though he supported Adelante!’s efforts by agreeing to support the DREAM Act, the letter represents Rosenberg’s personal support as an individual, not as the president of the college. After the SRC provides a recommendation to the president in favor of Adelante!’s proposal and the president decides to support the DREAM Act, President Rosenberg would submit a new letter representing the college as an institution. Financial implications for undocumented students As federal policies currently stand, undocumented students are not barred from applying to colleges and universities. However, because they lack a social security number they are not able to apply as domestic students and instead must apply either as international students or out-of-state students at state universities. If they are admitted to the school there are no regulations against them enrolling, but their lack of citizenship makes them ineligible for federal funding or in-state tuition. The passage of the DREAM Act would permit undocumented students to begin a six-year process towards permanent legal status if, among other requirements, they arrived in the United States at the age of 15 or younger, at least five years before any legislation became federal law. To achieve permanent legal status, students would need to graduate from community college, complete at least two years towards a four-year degree, or serve at least two years in the U.S. military. The legislation would make it possible for undocumented students to receive federal funding and in-state tuition rates. If the DREAM Act were to be signed into law, Director of Financial Aid Brian Lindeman ’89 explained that undocumented students would be able to access Federal Student Aid programs like the Federal Pell Grant and Federal Stafford Loan programs. “Putting politics aside, the DREAM Act is interesting from a financial aid perspective because it would give us tools that we don’t currently have,” Lindeman wrote in an email. “These programs are an important part of the financial aid supporting Macalester students and an especially important support for students who need the most financial aid.” Lindeman said he was not aware of undocumented students currently enrolled at Macalester or enrolled in the past. “Our current practice is to treat undocumented students as ‘international’ since they do not have access to Federal Student Aid programs,” Lindeman said. “If an undocumented student enrolled, we would provide financial aid just like we do to other international students.” However, Lindeman noted that an undocumented student would not be able to access the student loan or student employment part of the financial aid package because of their lack of a social security number. “This could be a real barrier, especially in the case of an undocumented student who had high need for financial aid,” he said. Existing support of the DREAM Act Dozens of other colleges and universities nationwide have already pledged institutional support through official letters from their presidents on behalf of their respective schools, including Stanford, University of Maine, Tufts, Purdue, Swarthmore, Princeton and Amherst. 10 states—Texas, California, New York, Utah, Illinois, Washington, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Kansas—have passed laws that permit undocumented students to pay in-state tuition under certain conditions. The College Board has also endorsed the DREAM Act and on their website provide information about admission, tuition and financial aid policies. According to the College Board website, about 65,000 undocumented students graduate from U.S. high schools annually. “American in identity and spirit, if not on paper, unauthorized students share the aspirations and ambitions of their American-born peers, but due to their legal status their social mobility is severely restricted after high school graduation,” the College Board writes on their website. “The College Board is committed to expanding educational opportunities for this segment of our nation’s youth who have the potential to make significant contributions to the economy, democracy and society in general.” Though Cardona recognizes that it is a politically-charged issue and said she doesn’t expect everyone to be completely in support, she said Adelante! has not faced any negative criticism towards the project so far. “We’ve been really successful,” she said. Cardona cites Macalester’s institutional values and the values of the student body as reasons that reactions have been unanimously receptive to Adelante!’s efforts. “It’s an issue that effects us all,” Cardona said. “It’s not just a brown issue. It’s not just a Latino issue.”