s Marie Nazareth Gonzales puts it, “Life in limbo is no way to live.” A junior at Westminster College in Missouri and a Costa Rican who came to the United States at the age of 5, Gonzales is living here on borrowed time. Her parents were deported in 2005, and her own deportation has now been deferred three times, each deferral good for one year. “Last month, when they gave me until June of 2008, they told me it would be the last renewal. If the DREAM [Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors] Act doesn’t pass by then, I will have to leave,” Gonzales told the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law during a hearing on undocumented student issues Friday morning.
“My life since April of 2002 can be easily compared to a roller coaster,” Gonzales said. “There have been times when I have felt like I was on top of the world, living out mine and my parents’ dream of being a successful young woman in her college career, only to be brought down by the realization that at any moment it can be taken away.”
The plight of undocumented college students attracted virtually unprecedented attention in Congress last week, when Democratic and Republican Senate leaders, with President Bush’s backing, announced a comprehensive immigration reform package that would include a DREAM Act provision providing a path to permanent residency for college students and military personnel under 30 who came to the country illegally as children. Passage of the Senate plan — already derided as an amnesty bill — is in no way a sure thing. Still, advocates for undocumented students say they have good reason to be hopeful.
“This seems to be the most optimism that we’ve been allowed to have in quite some time, certainly in the seven years that I’ve been working on this issue,” said David Hawkins, director of public policy for the National Association for College Admission Counseling. He cited not only the bipartisan Senate plan but also the willingness of the House subcommittee to hold a hearing on undocumented students Friday. That same hearing, Hawkins said, never would have happened even one year ago (when Republicans were in control).
“I don’t want to jinx ourselves, but if you have [the support of] the administration, a bipartisan agreement in the Senate and a committee in the House that seems willing to take this on, in addition to some very compelling testimony from students this morning, I have to feel that the outlook is good, certainly better than it has been in some time,” Hawkins said Friday afternoon. He added that he thinks the Senate plan will spur the House to come up with a package of its own to send to the floor by summer.Read On….