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Know Your Rights
Source: Queens Courier
Subject: Immigration
Type: Media Coverage

DREAMing of Green Cards

Students hit the streets and train stations of Roosevelt Avenue to rally community support for a bill that would give them a path towards citizenship.

More than 40 students asked Jackson Heights and Elmhurst residents to call their senators and representatives urging them to support the passage of the DREAM Act in the Congressional lame duck session. It was all part of the National Day of Action for the DREAM Act on Tuesday, November 30.

“It might seem like a simple thing to do, but it means a lot,” said Natalia Aristizabal, a youth organizer from Make the Road New York, a nonprofit immigrant group in Jackson Heights that organized the teens.

The high school students from Queens handed out flyers with phone numbers of key lawmakers at different stops along the No. 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue, including 74th Street, 82nd Street, 90th Street and Junction Boulevard. They hoped to generate calls in support of the bill that would give them green cards if they go to college or join the military.

Among the students was Honduran native Julia Aguilar, 17, a high school senior at LaGuardia Community High School, who came to the United States at age 13. She wants to study to be a civil engineer, but her real dream is to be a psychologist, professions she cannot practice because of her legal status.

“I think that if I had papers, I would be able to help a lot,” Aguilar said. “Education to me is very important and everyone should have it.”

The DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act) is expected to be re-introduced for a vote in Congress as soon as this week. Backers see this as a last chance to pass the legislation, which was first introduced almost 10 years ago, before outgoing Senate Democrats leave their seats in January.

“They want to give back to the country, and they want Congress to give back to them,” Aristizabal said.

The measure would enable undocumented youth, who have been in the United States for at least five consecutive years, to earn permanent legal status by obtaining a college degree or doing two years of military service. This legislation would benefit young people who have been living in the country since they were 15 years or less and between 12 to 35 years old at the time of application. They would also have graduated from a secondary school in the United States, obtained a GED, or have been accepted to a university.

According to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), 825,000 undocumented students nationally would be eligible to obtain permanent legal status through the DREAM Act — 146,000 who are from New York.