Students Fight for a Dream
For many young people in this country the thought of reaching economic advancement through academia is nothing more then a dream, no matter how hard they work. Juan-Carlos, who wishes to only be identified by his first name, is one of those people. Juan-Carlos graduated two years ago from a five-year accelerated program earning both a bachelor’s degree in math and master’s degree in education. He should be in the prime of his career, but instead he is one of millions of young illegal immigrants who are held back by their status.
Juan-Carlos came to the United States from Mexico when he was 11. His family made their way to New York City and Juan-Carlos attended Queens International High School. There he graduated with a 4.0 GPA, was involved in numerous student groups and was valedictorian of his graduating class.
Through a connection he had made at his College Now program he was able to get an in-house scholarship to a private University on Long Island (he wishes to keep the name of the school private).
After all of his hard work he is unable to achieve his dream of being a teacher because he does not have a social security number. As of now he works off the books at a car company as a dispatcher and volunteers for a non-profit where he helps teach ESL to adults.
“All I want to do is teach,” emphasized Juan-Carlos. “Education is my passion.”
He is also an activist for immigration rights. He recently spoke at the New York Immigration Coalition’s annual meeting. In early December of last year he spoke on behalf of the The Development, Relief, and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. It would offer students who meet certain criteria a path to citizenship. Guidelines that must be met include residing in the country before the age of 16 for at least five years, graduating from a United States High School, and having good moral character. If the law would pass the student would also have to enroll in a higher-education institution or serve in the military.
The passage of the law picked up steam late last year as supporters tried to pass it before a new, primarily Republican congress took office. President Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and New York senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand all supported the bill.
New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg also came out in favor of the DREAM Act, saying it was good for the city. “Why shouldn’t our economy benefit from the skills these young people have learned right here in our public schools?” wrote Mayor Bloomberg. “They’ve played by the rules, worked hard, and shown they value education or military service. They are just the kind of immigrants we need to help solve our unemployment problem.”
Those in opposition to the bill argued that it was an easy path towards amnesty for more then 2 million illegal immigrants. They also voiced concern that the passage of the bill would take away already scarce jobs and tuition.
At that time Juan-Carlos spoke at NYIC’s event, The House of Representatives had just passed the DREAM Act by a margin of 18 votes, while voting was delayed in the Senate. It was a nervous yet exciting time for him. He spent his free time networking, calling senators and gathering support on social networks.
When asked what would he do if the bill failed the Senate, he said he would wait it out a few more years and if worst comes to worse, go back to Mexico. That means leaving the only life he has ever known, his friends, his family and starting over from scratch.
Less than a week later, the Senate voted down the DREAM Act, leaving many such as Juan-Carlos to wonder and second-guess their futures in this country.
“I am just one of thousands. We all have dreams, the better future that our parents always wanted for us,” expressed Juan-Carlos. “Right now there is a wall between me and my goals.” #