WASHINGTON HEIGHTS Olga Reyes,** an undocumented immigrant from Mexico is in her first year at City College where she is studying political science in the hopes of becoming a lawyer.
But after her scholarship runs out this year, the 18-year-old who sells food and flowers when she is not in school, is unsure of how she’ll be able to pay for college and feed herself.
Reyes, who was a top student at the High School for Arts and Business in Queens, has been in the country since she was 10-years-old, but isn’t eligible for financial aid because she is undocumented.
"Without college, you can’t do anything. Maybe work at McDonald’s," Reyes said. "That’s why we need to pass the DREAM Act."
The measure, which passed the House last week would allow young undocumented people who were brought to the U.S. as children to go to college and serve in the military while putting them on a path to citizenship. It is estimated that 800,000 people would qualify for inclusion under the measure.
"If you have no education and are out in the street, what can you do? You can’t pay taxes. You can’t improve your neighborhood," Harlem Rep. Charles Rangel said at a press conference at Gregorio Luperon High School where many students would be affected by the passage of the bill. "In America we are not going to close the door on so many people who want to make a contribution."
Rangel said he has joined with local clergy and business leaders to push the Senate to pass the legislation by the end of the lame duck session on Dec. 31.
"There’s a lot of talent in this room. We don’t have to go around the world to find the next great scientist who will find a cure for AIDS because they are right here," said Senator-elect Adriano Espaillat.
Nelsy Sanchez, 17, a senior at Gregorio Luperon High School is a legal resident who plans on college next year to study international business. But she said her boyfriend, who was at the top of his class but undocumented, did not have the same opportunity.
"This country is a country of immigrants. Who are they to take away the dreams from students who are hard-working and motivated?" asked Sanchez.
Lisa Sharon Harper, co-chair of the the New York State Interfaith Network for Immigration Reform said faith groups have an especially strong interest in advocating for the DREAM Act.
"Jesus was an immigrant so how can I call myself a Christian and not love immigrants," said Harper. "We have to change the broken laws in America to come into allignment with God and realize no one is unacceptable in our nation."
Rangel called on the students gathered at the school to rally for the passage of the bill.
"It’s going to be up to you now," Rangel said.
**Olga Reyes is a member of Make the Road New York (MRNY).