Daring To DREAM

You don’t have to be a working woman to knock your head on a proverbial glass ceiling.

According to the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan economic think tank, an estimated 65,000 undocumented high school students graduate each year with no hope of furthering their education.

But 2007 may finally be the year that changes, and immigrant rights advocates are clinging to proposed federal education changes as one of that last chances for immigration reform anytime in the near future.When Congressional members get back to work after their August recess, they are expected to take action on the DREAM Act, or the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act.

The proposed measure would give undocumented youths who arrived in the United States before turning 16 the chance to pursue higher education and legalize their status, providing they graduate from high school and are found to be of good moral character.

“These are students that have grown up here their whole lives, played by the rules, learned English, and  graduated from high school just like any other student,” says Julie Gonzales, director of youth organizing for Padres and Jovenes Unidos (Parents and Youth United), an advocacy group based in Denver.

Padres and Jovenes Unidos has been reaching out to members of Colorado’s Congressional delegation in an effort to garner support for the DREAM ACT.

So far, Democratic Reps. Dianna DeGette and Mark Udall have signed on as co-sponsors to the House version of the proposal, with Sen. Ken Salazar–who took part in constructing a failed immigration reform bill this session-also voicing support for the act.

“We’re really looking forward to both the House and the Senate putting the DREAM Act up for a vote.  We’re looking for movement to come in the next couple of months,” Gonzales says, estimating that approximately 12,000 undocumented high school students graduate each year in Colorado.

A similar bill to the DREAM act was first introduced in 2001, and such legislation has gained support each session since being introduced.

Another provision in the measure would give undocumented young people the option of serving in the military for two years rather than going to school, but Gonzales says Padres and Jovenes Unidos wants to see the proposal used to educate youth rather than sending them off to war.

Could 2007 be the year that immigrant youths are given the opportunity to legalize their status in the country they have grown up in?

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.