Still a Dream

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This December, Ira McDougall (a real person with a different
name) triumphantly graduated from the University of Illinois
with a Bachelor of the Arts in Political Science. The seemingly
normal feat is even more significant because Ira is an undocumented
student and the
obstacles to completing a
degree are but further tests to
the high character that a
young person must display.
Yet foreign students are still
denied a path to citizenship.
The laws must change.
Immigration reform is not
merely a political issue to Ira.
It is a daily battle for social
acceptance and the gaining
of nine, highly sought after
social security digits. Even
with a university degree, Ira
cannot yet plan on getting a
driver’s license, registering to
vote, or finding employment; these are privileges that he, at
present, cannot enjoy. Nationwide, child immigrants of any
legal status are required to attend school up to the legal age
in the state of their residence; in Illinois, the student may
continue through college albeit with systemic handicaps
because these near native residents do not have a social
security number. Like other undocumented immigrants of
any age or origin, they are not eligible for financial aid, permitted
to drive, or even to get on a plane. Gaining a college
degree is thus fraught with numerous obstacles.
Constant fear not only changes Ira’s long-term goals of
employment, voting, or applying to graduate schools, but
also deeply affects his everyday reality. Even a simple drive to
the grocery store is anxiety-ridden, and Ira is, “extra cautious
so that I do not get pulled over, even arrested, for the reason
that I do not have a driver’s license.” But Ira is not alone.
Every year, 65,000 hardworking, law-abiding, yet undocumented
students graduate from high school only to confront
the trials of life without the rights of citizenship essential to
normalcy and opportunity. Having grown up in the USA but
without legal status, the desire of these young people to contribute
to their own society is nullified. There are many that
believe this situation must be
changed, legally.
On Wednesday, December
9th, 2009, members of the University
of Illinois’ I Dream
Coalition, (including
M.E.Ch.A, UNFAS and La
Colectiva), hosted a comprehensive
immigration reform
rally in the U of I’s Foellinger
Auditorium. The rally called
together hundreds of the
Urbana-Champaign community,
students, faculty and staff as
well as fellow student organizers
from other Illinois universities
such as ISU. The groups
focused on support for the D.R.E.A.M. Act, a bi-partisan piece
of legislation that would provide undocumented students a
viable pathway to legal residency through higher education. It
would permit undocumented people to get a high school
degree in the US, keep a clean record, attend a minimum of
two years of college, and then get in line for citizenship. The
bill needs two more U.S. senators for passage.
The frigid weather and the fierce winds fanned the
enthusiasm of individuals of our Illinois community as
they came together to learn about and demand immigration
reform. Indeed, Ira’s voice was especially loud and his
DREAM ever closer. When asked about his own motivation,
Ira said, “my parents came to this country for my
future. The reality is that I do not have any other options.
Education is the only way that I can even

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