Give Kids Here Illegally Chance to go to College

September 16, 2010
In 2007, the Chicago Sun-Times highlighted a small high school in Little Village with a remarkable track record for a Chicago public school: All 32 of Spry High School's seniors graduated, each with at least one college acceptance letter in hand.
If only the story ended happily there.
The prospects for a third of those graduates -- 11 illegal immigrants brought to this country by their parents when they were young -- were dim.
"I want to be the first one to open doors for my family," Ofelia Gonzalez, the top student in the largely low- income class, said at the time. But "a Social Security number determines whether we can go to college."
As undocumented immigrants, Gonzalez and her classmates -- some of whom didn't know their immigration status until they applied to college -- were cut off from college financial aid and shut out of any job with a future. "We have so many opportunities, but we can't take them," Gonzalez said.
Thousands of students like Gonzalez do everything right. They stay in school, get good grades and share a keen desire to make it in the world. Instead, they often are relegated to a life in the shadows -- robbing the United States of their talents and their tax dollars.
For 10 years, U.S. Sen Dick Durbin has been pushing a narrowly tailored immigration bill to support these deserving immigrants, offering a shot at citizenship for a thin band of promising and determined young adults who are being penalized now for choices made by their parents when they were small.
Durbin's DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors), to be offered as an amendment to the defense authorization bill, is expected to face a vote early next week. We urge Durbin's Senate colleagues to stand with him.
Immigration reform is among the thorniest of issues. But if there's a room to find agreement, this is it. Forty senators agreed to co-sponsor this bill, and when it last came up for a vote in 2007, 11 Republicans said yes.
The DREAM Act is no giveaway, nor it is an amnesty program disguised in sheep's clothes.
Students must have come to the U.S before they were 16, lived continuously here for five years and have graduated from high school.
If a student completes at least two years of college or serves two years in the military -- boosting the quality of a military increasingly reliant on high school dropouts -- then, and only then, would a student be eligible for permanent residency.
Students who jump those hurdles are American in all ways except one.
They have talent, motivation and a desire to give back to a country that raised them. Let's open our doors to them and reap the rewards