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Penn President Amy Gutmann publicly confirmed the University’s support for the DREAM Act — joining dozens of other university presidents, as well as U.S. senators and congressmen.

This past month, Gutmann sent letters to U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, U.S. Rep. Robert Brady, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah and U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz in support of S. 729, the Development, Relief, Education for Alien Minors Act.

Introduced in the U.S. Senate on March 26, 2009 , if passed the DREAM Act would allow student immigrants to enlist in the military, go to college and have a path to citizenship they may not otherwise have.

In order to qualify for the DREAM Act, a student must have immigrated to the U.S. before the age of 16, have lived in the States for at least five years and have graduated from an American high school or received a General Equivalency Diploma.

After learning that presidents of other universities had made official statements in support of the bill, Laura Trujillo, College senior and president of the Penn’s Chicano culture group MEChA, decided to garner the support of Penn’s president as well.

“When a senator doesn’t support a piece of legislation, it’s often because their constituents don’t ask,” she said, explaining her reasons for reaching out to Gutmann.

MEChA, with the help of the Latino Coalition, wrote a letter to Gutmann on Jan. 21, asking for her public support of the DREAM Act.

Although the initiative to write the letter was undertaken by the Latino community, sending it was a team effort, according to Wharton junior and Latino Coalition chair Wendy de la Rosa.

“We’re not the only ones behind this,” she said.

The letter was signed by leaders of the other undergraduate-student minority groups on campus, including the Asian Pacific Student Coalition, Lambda Alliance, UMOJA and the United Minorities Council.

Within two weeks of sending the letter, the students received a response.

“She was very receptive,” de la Rosa said.

“It was a pleasant surprise,” Trujillo added.

In a letter to Senator Specter and the congressmen, Gutmann showed support for the bill.

“While the issue of immigration is controversial, educating more young people through the passage of the DREAM Act will promise to make our nation stronger and our future brighter by enabling our youth to reach their fullest potential,” she wrote.

Although students are excited about Gutmann’s support, they are realistic in their expectations, de la Rosa said.

“We know that Congress won’t pass the DREAM Act just because of Dr. Gutmann’s letter,” she said.

Still, hopes for the bill are high, according to Wharton and College junior Rohan Grover, the chair of the Asian Pacific Student Coalition.

“I think she took a big step towards increasing access to education,” he said.

The next step is a campus-wide letter-writing campaign, according to Trujillo.

“We’ve helped to spread the word, but there’s still so many people who don’t know,” she said about the DREAM Act.

“And that’s something we definitely want to change,” Trujillo added.

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