Monday, March 10, 2008

TN: Students head to D.C. to lobby for Dream Act

TN: Students head to D.C. to lobby for Dream Act
The Tennessean, March 5, 2008

A group of 10 Tennessee high school students -- many the children of illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States as long ago as 10 years -- embarked Wednesday on a journey to Washington D.C. in hopes of improving their future.

The group will join students from more than 30 states in lobbying federal lawmakers to pass a nearly seven year old bill that would grant them conditional legal status. The bill, known as the Dream Act, would clear the way for these students to earn legal residency and the ability to work if they graduate from college or serve in the armed forces. The bill, which has bipartisan support, is currently stalled in the Senate by a filibuster.

States are required to provide kindergarten though 12th-grade educations to students regardless of their legal status. Each year an estimated 65,000 undocumented students -- the number in Tennessee is unknown -- who have lived in the United States five years or more graduate from high school. Right now, these students can attend some Tennessee colleges and universities, but they are not eligible to receive federal and state financial aid.

But as the students left Nashville with hopes that their stories of academic achievement in Tennessee would help convince federal lawmakers to pass the Dream Act, state lawmakers may raise new hurdles for the students.A pair of bills introduced to the Tennessee House and Senate this year would specifically bar the state's public colleges and universities from admitting illegal immigrants. The bill's house sponsor plans to introduce it to a House Committee next week.

VIDEO: Hear what four students from Nashville have to say about their situation and the prospects of influencing lawmakers in Washington.

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