Now that Harvard's president has supported DREAM, what will it take for southwestern states to get on the bandwagon?
Harvard's Faust backs path to legal residency
Illegal immigrant bill called 'lifeline'
By Maria Sacchetti, Globe Staff | May 21, 2009
Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust yesterday backed federal legislation that would clear the way for illegal immigrant students to apply for legal residency, an endorsement that stunned students and drew criticism for a president who has largely steered clear of fierce debates.
In a letter this week to federal lawmakers, Faust expressed "strong support" for legislation known as the Dream Act, which would allow students who have been in this country since they were 15 to apply for legal residency under certain conditions. She acknowledged that students with "immigration status issues" attend Harvard, and said the bill would be a "lifeline" to such students.
"I believe it is in our best interest to educate all students to their full potential - it vastly improves their lives and grows our communities and economy," she wrote in a letter to Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry and Representative Michael E. Capuano, thanking them for their support for the legislation. "This bill will help move us closer to this goal."
Faust, who declined to be interviewed, is not the first leader to endorse the Dream Act. But her action adds a powerful new voice to the debate over a bill that has languished in Congress since 2001.
The Dream Act often surfaces in the debate in individual states over whether illegal immigrant students should pay resident tuition at public colleges and universities.
But the latest version of the Dream Act focuses largely on allowing illegal immigrant students to apply for legal residency, which is an issue that affects public and private colleges such as Harvard because its graduates cannot legally work in this country. (The act would make it easier for states to charge resident tuition, but does not require it).
Private colleges do not rely on government funding and can decide to finance those students on their own.
Harvard students said they have been lobbying Faust for months on the issue. They held a rally and submitted a petition with 120 signatures, said Harvard junior Kyle de Beausset, one of the organizers.
In recent months, two Harvard students who are in the United States illegally met with Faust in her office to seek her support. Yesterday, one of those students, an 18-year-old former high school valedictorian who has been in the United States since he was 9, said he was thrilled.
"We realized that what we were asking her to do wasn't an easy thing. The issue of immigration is politically charged," said the student, who spoke on the condition that his name not be used. "I am and will forever be indebted to this institution."
But Bob Dane, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said Harvard should not admit illegal immigrants because they displace students here legally.
"Maybe the elites at Harvard should come down from their ivory tower and get some ground perspective on what kind of cost and competition that legal US residents are actually incurring these days," said Dane.
Maria Sacchetti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.