Hispanics rally for law to ease path for students
By Angela Mapes Turner
The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette (IN), April 30, 2009
Local Hispanic groups gathered Wednesday to support legislation that would grant citizenship to some children of illegal immigrants.
The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, known as DREAM and co-sponsored by Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., would grant conditional legal status to students younger than 35 who were brought to the U.S. before age 16, have lived here continuously for five years, graduated from a U.S. high school or obtained a GED, and attend college or enlist in the military for at least two years.
Students who are illegal immigrants are barred from some colleges and can't fill out the form federal and state officials use to determine financial aid eligibility. Those who manage to pay for and graduate from college can find it difficult to get a job post- graduation and still face the risk of deportation.
The group of about 30 gathered Wednesday at United Hispanic Americans' Fairfield Avenue headquarters included members of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic Leadership Coalition of Northeast Indiana, United Hispanic Americans Inc., Hispanos Unidos of Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne and local students and parents.
Rosa Gerra, executive director of United Hispanic Americans, said she believes the bleak outlook for illegal immigrant students contributes to the high dropout rate among Hispanic students.
'We cannot continue to ignore or waste this talent,' she said.
Opponents argue the bill as written doesn't require immigrants to provide enough proof of their residency in the U.S. and would place too great a burden on the already overtaxed federal agency that regulates immigration.
Standing quietly by the crowd was Sandra Sustaita, who said she is an illegal immigrant who came to Chicago from Monterrey, Mexico, more than 10 years ago and later moved to Indiana.
She has one son, 20, who gave up on school because of his immigration status and now works at an area restaurant. Sustaita, who cleans houses, said she wants better for him and her two younger sons, ages 14 and 17.
'I want them to realize their dreams,' she said in Spanish. 'It's so important that they pass this law.'
At the same time the Fort Wayne event was taking place, state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, conducted a separate event at the Statehouse, joined by members of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus from Indianapolis, East Chicago and Gary.