2012-01-26 / School

BHS students discuss DREAM Act at Henderson Co. Democrats meeting

By Melody Belcher


Pictured, left to right, are Marsha Head, Henderson County Democrats chairperson; Joe Guerra, Assistant Dean of Arts and Sciences; Jessica Rojas, Mayra Granados, and Isela Guerrero, Brownsboro High School Students; and Maurica Giles and Willie Haggerty, Brownsboro High School teachers and sponsors. Pictured, left to right, are Marsha Head, Henderson County Democrats chairperson; Joe Guerra, Assistant Dean of Arts and Sciences; Jessica Rojas, Mayra Granados, and Isela Guerrero, Brownsboro High School Students; and Maurica Giles and Willie Haggerty, Brownsboro High School teachers and sponsors. Have you ever had a dream? That was the question three Brownsboro High School students, Isela Guerrero, Jessica Rojas, and Mayra Granados, posed in their presentation to a full house at the Henderson County Democratic meeting on Jan. 14.

These students, under the sponsorship of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) and with the guidance of their teachers and sponsors, Maurica Giles and Willie Haggerty, laid out the dream, the roadblocks to attaining it, and the steps the citizens of Henderson County could take to help young people achieve that dream.

The dream?

To become legal citizens of the United States. It will be no easy task, but to those young people who have grown up in America, and already see themselves as Americans, the alternative is unthinkable.

Isela, Jessica and Mayra explained the intent and purpose of the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act – the “DREAM Act.”

Passage of the Act insures certain undocumented immigrants’ passage into American society as legal and law abiding citizens who can vote, attend college, obtain jobs, pay taxes, contribute to their communities, and in every way represent the America they already call home. The requirements these young people must meet under the DREAM Act are strict. Applicants must:

• Be able to prove they were residents of the U.S. before age 16;

• Have proof of residence in the United States for at least 5 consecutive years since their date of arrival;

• If male, have registered with the Selective Service;

• Be between the ages of 12 and 35 at the time the bill is enacted;

• Have graduated from an American High School, obtained a GED, or have been admitted to an institution of higher education; and

• Be of “good moral character.”

The Dream Act was first introduced in the Senate on August 1, 2001 and was last reintroduced on May 11, 2011, but never made it out of Committee. Passage of the DREAM Act would enable the thousands of undocumented students who graduate from high school every year to take the first step toward productive citizenship - and that is to obtain a college education.

The drain of intellectual wealth from our country due to deportation is one side of the story. The other side, the students proffer, is the human side – the destruction of the family structure and the fear it fosters; and for the young people, the knowledge that no matter the level to which they excel, there is currently no pathway to overcome their undocumented immigrant status and still remain in the United States.

Mayra said, “We started out by telling you that our dream was to go to college. So our question to you is: which one of us would you deny our dream? One of the three of us is an example of the student we have just been discussing with you. Which one of us would you deny a chance to go to college? Jessica? Isela? Or me?”

Jessica said, “Each year, approximately 65,000 undocumented students graduate high school. Many of them excel in school, graduating at the top of their class. They are Americans in every sense except for citizenship.”

Isela added, “Even if students are able to navigate the convoluted maze of enrollment and make it through college, they graduate without the legal right to work in this country. For most undocumented students, it is the end of the road. But it doesn’t have to be . . . the DREAM Act …. If passed, it would provide a pathway to legal status for those thousands of undocumented students who graduate from high school each year.”

Mayra concluded the presentation with these words: “America is a nation founded on welcoming immigrants trying to gain a better future for themselves and their families. Engraved upon the Statute of Liberty, long a reminder of the American Dream, are the words, ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.’ In other words, give me your DREAM Seekers.”

Maurica Giles explained that Isela, Jessica and Mayra completed their project outside of classroom hours under the auspices of the Club associated with Family and Consumer Sciences courses, called FCCLA (Family Career and Community Leaders of America). She stated it was an “advocacy” event – the students chose a cause about which they felt passionate – then completed their research, prepared an “elevator speech,” brochures, flyers, and the PowerPoint presentation. Mrs. Giles said, “they will compete at Regional on February 10 in Waco, where they will present their advocacy project for passage of the DREAM Act. She added, “this is not just a contest … nor just a project for them.” “This is something very dear to their hearts.” And she added that, as a Republican, she supports the DREAM Act wholeheartedly. “It is a way for us to open the door and start trying to solve some of the problems with the immigration situation. At least it is a small step in the right direction.”

Joe Guerra, Assistant Dean of Arts and Sciences at Navarro College in Corsicana, reinforced Mrs. Giles’ statements with a first-hand account of a student who had earned his Master’s Degree under an Educational Visa, and later was forced to return to Mexico. Mr. Guerra indicated he was aware of many similar instances, all of which would not exist if the DREAM Act became law.

From a budgetary standpoint, the DREAM Act will cut the deficit $1.4 billion over the next 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Following the DREAM Act presentation, the floor was opened to the Henderson County Democratic candidates.

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