Undocumented Immigrant Teens Face Few Options


When Rosario Moreno came to New York City with her family in 2005, she was “excited to go live in one of the biggest countries in the world.” Moreno, who is 18 years old, soon learned how tough it is to live in the United States without legal documentation.

“Being an immigrant is the hardest thing in United States of America, especially when you are young,” Moreno said. “Starting college made me realize how many advantages that I missed and am still missing today because of my immigrant status.”

Undocumented immigrant children, many of whom have lived in the United States for most of their lives, face obstacles to higher education, cannot work legally in the United States and live in fear of deportation.

One solution offered to this problem is the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act, which would give conditional residency status to kids of immigrant parents. The act would allow undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States before the age of 16 and who have been in the United States for at least five years to obtain temporary residency status. In order to be able to apply for permanent residency, however, immigrants would have to either attend two years of college or serve two years in the U.S. military.

The military service requirement has some advocates thinking twice about the bill. “As teachers, we support the DREAM Act and what it can offer for immigrant students,” said Edwin Mayora of the New York Collective of Radical Educators. “But we’re concerned that many people will end up in the military in order to get residency status rather than because they want to be there.”

Supporters are hopeful that the bill will become law in 2009. “With a new presidential administration, we are highly optimistic that the DREAM Act will pass this year,” said Marisol Ramos of the New York State Youth Leadership Council.

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