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Immigrants push passage of Dream Act

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. Eagle resident Amador Lopez would be pursuing a career in something like law enforcement in his ideal future.Instead, he works in an automotive tire shop, studies English and dreams of what might be if he could afford to get a college degree.Because Lopez is an undocumented resident from Mexico, he has to pay out-of-state tuition to go to college. It’s more than he can afford. The same goes for his friend Francisco, a Gypsum resident and Mexican immigrant who declined to give his last name. He’s working in carpentry but also dreaming of going on to get a degree.For now, Lopez said in an interview, “We’re stuck between high school and college.”Their plight caused them to join as many as 150 others who attended a rally Thursday night in Glenwood Springs in support of the Dream Act. The legislation would provide a means for undocumented youths to pursue higher education while also moving toward legal residence in the United States.Thursday’s meeting at the Glenwood Springs Community Center was organized by Congregations and Schools Empowered (CASE). Students, teachers and representatives for U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar and U.S. Rep. John Salazar, both Colorado Democrats, all spoke in favor of the Dream Act and urged people to lobby other members of Congress for its passage.”We have to get aggressive because we cannot let this happen anymore,” said Adriana Ayala, precollegiate director for the Roaring Fork Re-1 School District. “I refuse to let my students go in the shadows and live like that because they can’t go to college; they can’t afford it.”Isabel Moron fought back tears as she spoke of coming to Colorado two years ago, in her senior year of high school, only to learn the current laws would make it impossible for her to go to college. Fortunately, she said, she found people willing to help her and now she’s taking classes at Colorado Mountain College. But she added her voice to the call for change in the federal law.”Please help us out to realize our dreams,” she said.CASE member Sergio Carrasco said 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school each year and only 13,000 of them attend college. Some of those who can’t “are extremely bright, they are valedictorians who graduated with honors,” he said.Enrique Weber told listeners that he was born in Mexico and moved to the United States at age 6. He now has a good grade point average in high school and hopes to go to college.”We all might not know what we want to study, what we want to do, but what I do know is we all have a dream. So tell me, how are we different?” he said.The Dream Act would let students who have been in the United States for more than five years apply for conditional status providing up to six years of legal residence. In that time, a student would have to go to college for two years or serve in the military for two years. After six years, the student could receive permanent residence.The law also would eliminate a federal requirement that if colleges let undocumented students pay in-state tuition, they must let out-of-state students do the same.Richard Baca, regional director for John Salazar, spoke proudly of Salazar’s support for the Dream Act and of Baca’s own Latino heritage. He said his family settled in what is now the southwestern United States in 1598.”We have always been here. We did not come to America. America came to us,” he said.No one spoke against the Dream Act at Thursday’s meeting. But Dan Isham, founder of Rocky Mountain Minutemen of Western Colorado, a group concerned about illegal immigration, said in an interview that the group doesn’t believe Americans should be financing undocumented immigrants’ education beyond the high school level.”After that we feel that America has done its job in terms of compassion for something that derived from an illegal process, an illegal act,” he said.He sympathizes with the difficult position undocumented youth are in, but added, “Where is the responsibility of the parents? It’s the parents through their illegal behavior who caused this situation.”Whatever the causes, the upshot is that people such as Eagle resident Lopez and his friend Francisco are stuck in a holding pattern. If nothing else, their English is quite good thanks to all the language classes the two have taken.”That’s pretty much the only thing we can do right now,” Francisco said.Contact Dennis Webb: 384-9119dwebb@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO


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