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Immigrants rights activists march
to support DREAM Act

Immigrants rights activists marched from Post and Market St. to the Civic Center
Thursday to urge Congress and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to support the DREAM Act.
Photo(s) by John Han

By John Han

July 6, 2007

Immigrants' rights activists marched yesterday from Post and Market St. to San Francisco's Civic Center Plaza to show support for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. The DREAM Act, as it is known, is a bill which would provide a path to citizenship for students who, despite growing up in the United States, remain illegal immigrants.

The march began with a rally in front of Sen. Diane Feinstein's office and proceeded along Market St. to the Civic Center where they joined with students from all over California on a week long fast to support the DREAM Act. Students came from as far as Orange County, Los Angeles County, Central Valley and San Jose to show their support.

"I feel awesome!" said Rodrigo, a U.C. Berkeley student and one of the twenty six or more students fasting. "The spirit of the people, you know, it's alive - that's what we need. The people's presence is a medicine for me."

Going on the fourth day of his fast, Rodrigo said he's originally from Oaxaca, Mexico and grew up in San Jose. Throughout high school he maintained a 4.0 G.P.A. and graduated as the valedictorian of the class of 2005. He is going on his third year at Berkeley as a Rhetoric major.

"Unfortunately, according to federal government I am not eligible for federal loans nor to work legally. I'm sacrificing my body today as well as other twenty six or more students to urge Nancy Pelosi to take a stand on the DREAM Act this year, for it to be passed."

Under current law, children who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents, or children whose parents tried to immigrate legally but were denied after years of application, derive their legal status solely from their parents, thus also becoming illegal based upon their parent's denial. They cannot work legally in the U.S. even if they have college degrees. Without legal residency, immigrants who might otherwise have been scientists, nurses, teachers, or engineers etc... are forced to settle for menial employment.

"I would just hate to see the talents of all the students go to waste." said Miriam D. a U.C. Davis student and faster.

Carlos, a psychology major at Bakersfield College came to San Francisco to join students in the fast as well. "It's the common unity amongst everybody that all we want is a better life and that right is being denied."

Under the DREAM Act however, immigrant students who could meet certain requirements would be able to obtain pathway for legal residency. The requirements would be that they:

- Must have entered the United States before the age of 16.

- Must have lived in the United States at least five years prior to the date of enactment.

- Must have graduated from an American high school or obtained a GED.

- Must demonstrate "good moral character", essentially defined as having no significant criminal record or any drug charges.

It's estimated that over 65,000 immigrants graduate from high schools every year and are able to meet those requirements.

Students who do meet the requirements would be eligible for a temporary six year "conditional status" which would allow them to live in the United States legally, get driver's licenses, go to college as in-state residents, and obtain social security numbers. During the six year period, the student would be required to either (a) graduate from a two-year college, (b) complete two years towards a four-year degree, or (c) serve two years in the U.S. Military. Immigrants who complete any one of these three requirements becomes eligible to apply for permanent legal resident status.

Mark Siverman is an immigration attorney and activist who spoke at the rally. "The DREAM Act is just, it's fair, but it's not for certain that it's gonna win this year because there's been such an increase in hatred fomented mainly by the Rush Limbaugh like radio people. The Republican Party sees a lot of these people as their base and they may oppose any legalization including the legalization for the people of the DREAM Act. So we even have to work harder for the DREAM Act."

He went on to say, "Letting these young people do their professions is in the interest of all of us. It's just, it's fair... it's good for the immigrants, it's good for the students, and it's good for America."




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