Hidden beneath the idealistic vision of a “dream school” is the assumption that every young student or young person has an implicit right to dream this dream.
For some people, however, that dream might never become a reality: In December 2010, the Senate blocked the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, a bill that would provide a path for young illegal immigrants to attend college and eventually become legal U.S. citizens despite their current illegal status.
The DREAM Act requires students to have arrived in the United States before age 16 and have completed two years of college education or military service. The students have six years in which to complete their education or service, and upon doing so, can obtain legal U.S. citizenship.
Though the immigration debate is complex and requires a cautious approach, opponents were basing their argument on an incorrect assumption, criticizing the bill for granting amnesty to undeserving people and for encouraging more illegal immigration.
“Dream school” is a commonplace phrase for students today. High schoolers pin their hopes and aspirations onto the college that they think will allow their dreams to come true.
Both college and the military provide space for community, connection and growth. These are the kind of places young people need to motivate themselves and realize their dreams.
Is that a requirement for citizenship? Not really. But it is something any young person who is willing to apply themselves deserves, citizen or not.
The DREAM Act is motivated by a humane vision of young illegal immigrants and their genuine needs as human beings, not as faceless illegal immigrants.
It’s also motivated by the belief that the societal benefits of education compensate for doubts about whether or not citizenship is deserved.
A limited rhetoric dominates our nation’s anti-immigrant debate and doesn’t allow for an understanding of the value of potential DREAM Act students, and in a broader sense, the value of our educational system. The fact that the DREAM Act uses education as a path to citizenship points to the power and role education has to change lives.
On the The Daily Beast, an anonymous illegal immigrant student, who has lived in the U.S. since she was four years old and is now a senior at Harvard University, described her challenges as an undocumented college student.
“School has always been my sanctuary … a respite from reality, a place where I could be loved and appreciated for my mind and my heart.”
Education holds this unique power as a space without borders — separate but not disconnected from the burdens of reality — where everyone is allowed equal opportunity to dream.
For the DREAM Act to pass, we need to adjust our mindset about illegal immigration is necessary. It should be understood that everyone, regardless of where they were born or where they are now, needs a sanctuary. A dream school. A place to dream. Or maybe just a dream.
As students at USC who are being allowed to live this dream, we understand the value of education and community.
The young people fighting for the passage of this bill are not criminals. They are immigrants, brought here by their parents, who grew up and were educated in the United States.
Why should they not be able to dream like those of us who were born here?
Elena Kadvany is a senior majoring in journalism and spanish.