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Pro: Passage would help immigrants improve life, future

By Gheni_Platenburg
Nov. 28, 2010 at 5:28 a.m.


During the past few years, a Victoria East High School sophomore has thought repeatedly, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

She has seriously thought of becoming a cosmetologist and owning her own salon, as well as maybe pursuing a career in photography or nursing.

The 15-year-old sophomore, who asked not to be named for legal reasons, admitted her outlook for the future was bleak because she is an undocumented Mexican immigrant.

"It bothers me because I feel like why do I bother going to school," the brown-eyed, brunette said sadly. "Even if I get my diploma, it will mean nothing."

She's not alone with her concerns.

With an estimated 65,000 undocumented students in the United States, the student is just one of many who are pessimistic about their futures.

However, the possible passage of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, otherwise known as the Dream Act, brings a glimmer of hope for the futures of undocumented students.

"I think everyone deserves to have a dream, especially if they lived here all their lives," said Victoria attorney Maria D. Nunez, who handles immigration cases. "I think a lot of (undocumented students) inspire to go on and go to college. They all have dreams."

Years after supporting President Ronald Reagan-era Immigration Reform and Control Act, retired Bishop Charles V. Grahmann, former bishop of Victoria and Dallas Catholic dioceses, was happy about the Dream Act's potential benefits.

"It gives young people who have been here some time and have made great contributions to our democracy, a chance to fully participate in citizenship in the U.S. To lose them would be very unfortunate," said Grahmann. "I hope people can put aside their partisan politics and move forward to a just resolution for the 12 million people who live here illegally and contribute tax-wise to our economy."

From an education point-of-view, Denee Thomas, senior director of the Letting Education Achieve Dreams and Student Recruitment at the University of Houston-Victoria, said the bill's potential to increase the diversity among student bodies would be beneficial to all students, not just immigrants.

"Diversity goes hand-in-hand with education," said Thomas. "Our world is a global world, an Internet-based world, and it is no longer appropriate to not know what is happening with people around the world."

Benny Martinez, Texas League of United Latin American Citizens District 10 director, also favors the bill's passage because of the benefits it can bring.

"Undocumented students should go to school. Children who are not educated end up falling into a life of crime, prostitution and drug peddling. It will cost the government lots more to incarcerate than to educate," said Martinez.

If the bill passes, the Victoria student said she would be happy because she might qualify for it.

Born in Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, the B-student moved to Victoria with her mother and two older siblings, all of whom are also undocumented, when she was in the second grade.

In hopes of a better life for her now 15-year-old daughter, her mother enrolled her in English-as-a-second-language classes at Hopkins Elementary School, hoping it would academically benefit her in the long run.

Throughout the years, the Victoria student has worked to maintain good grades in hopes of possibly moving forward after graduation.

"My mom tells me that she has her hopes on me because she hopes I will graduate," said. Her older siblings dropped out of high school when they reached the 11th grade.

"She said she wants to walk the stage with me."

At times, the pressure to succeed and do more than just work in local Mexican restaurants like the rest of her family can be a heavy burden for the student to bear.

"I feel proud, but at the same time, if I don't graduate, then I will be letting my Mom down like my brother and sister," she said.

However, she said, the bill's possible passage does help to make the load a little lighter.

"It makes me feel better about going to school," said the sophomore. "I'll feel more comfortable, like something has been lifted off my shoulders, and I won't have to worry all the time."

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