Consider this scenario: There’s this cool guy you sit with in discussion section. You know his name and his hometown. You know that he always comes five minutes late to class because he comes from the other side of campus, and you’ve laughed together while making snarky comments about the GSI’s verbal tics. He wants to graduate and go to medical school. He’s going to make the University’s Alumni Association really happy, buy premium seats at the Big House and make his newborn kids wear Wolverine onesies.
What if he turned to you tomorrow and told you that he needed you to make his dream a reality? What if he told you that you had the power to help him? Would you support him and fight for him?
He’s an undocumented immigrant — he was born in another country, and there are thousands of students like him in the United States. In many cases, parents brought students like him to the U.S. when they were children. He may have grown up watching American television and celebrating Thanksgiving. But when it’s time to go to college, he either can’t attend or needs financial aid.
If he graduates from college, he then learns that no U.S. citizenship means he can’t actually work in the country. So he’s told to go back to the country he left as a child and can barely remember.
At the University, we’ve answered his kind of call before. During the civil rights movement, students led protests and fought for a more inclusive campus. Ann Arbor is the kind of place where we should fight for the rights of our classmates — brotherhood is not just for football games.
In October of 2007, this dream almost became a reality for these students. The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act would provide a path to citizenship for those who arrive in the country before the age of 16 and obtain at least two years of higher education or two years of military service. In other words, the DREAM Act is the change that undocumented immigrant students across the country desperately need.
It gained 52 votes in the Senate, just 8 short of the filibuster-proof margin it needed to move forward. Not approving this legislation was an inexcusable and cowardly act, and those missing 8 votes shattered the dreams of thousands of students — students that are just as qualified to gain an education as any other American.
Thankfully, the DREAM Act was reintroduced to Congress this year. In hopes of its passage, more than a dozen groups, including university clubs, academic departments, local retailers and community-based organizations, are coming together to host a series of events this week. We invite you to join with your friend at 6:30 p.m. tonight in Angell Hall Auditorium D for a workshop on the DREAM Act. We also hope you can join us on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in Angell Hall Auditorium C for the first-ever Michigan screening of the riveting new documentary film, “Papers.”
So it’s time to meet the challenge and help out a friend. You can choose to “meekly live, going slow, slow, slow” (in Langston Hughes’s words), or you can pick up the pace, make a phone call and sign the petition. Your friend’s dream can’t wait.
This viewpoint was submitted by Samantha Nawrocki on behalf of Migrant and Immigrant Rights Awareness.