Approximately 65,000 high school graduates won’t be able to pursue their dreams as scholars, athletes, artists or even Americans because they are undocumented youth.
Tuesday night, David Bennion of Dreamactivist.org enlightened the Penn community about the hardships these students endure during an event hosted by MEChA de Penn, a group that aims to promote Chicano culture.
Dreamactivist.org is dedicated to getting Congress to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, a piece of legislation that would allow undocumented students to receive permanent resident status in the U.S.
According to Bennion, currently this process is unnecessarily difficult because even children who have lived in the U.S. for a prolonged period of time aren’t recognized as residents due to their parents’ immigration status.
“It doesn’t matter about your involvement in your community, skills, race or language — it’s all irrelevant to the government,” Bennion said.
Bennion shared his personal experiences with an audience in the Class of 1958 Cafe in Irvine Auditorium. He described his own encounters with facilities that held students who had been seized due to their questionable residential statuses.
“Looking specifically at undocumented youth, they face a lot of problems,” he said, stressing that these students “can be detained or locked up at the government’s discretion.”
Bennion tried to convey that the youth who would benefit from the DREAM Act already feel more at home in America than their home countries, yet are not recognized as citizens by the government.
The DREAM Act, if passed, would grant students permanent resident status under certain conditions: they must have immigrated to the U.S. before 16 years of age, have spent a minimum of five years in the country and have graduated from an American high school or have obtained a GED. Students would also have to commit to and complete either a two-year college degree program or military service.
Bennion’s appearance last night, according to MEChA President and College senior Laura Trujillo, was MEChA’s first step in a plan to increase activity and awareness on campus about the DREAM Act.
“We have a year-long plan ... to get the community more involved,” she said.
The group’s ultimate goal, according to Vice President of MEChA and College sophomore Rosie Brown, is to get the DREAM Act passed in Congress. And in order to do so, she explained, building awareness “is key.”