Immigration activists speak out in Washington
WASHINGTON D.C. — Seventy activists from New Jersey marched to promote the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act Saturday morning, walking from 800 Florida Ave NE to Lafayette Square.
They joined "We Are All Arizona," an immigration reform rally with thousands of people directly across from the White House, where speakers both challenged and criticized the president in Spanish and English.
The crowd joined in chants of "Education not deportation," "We are Arizona" and "Si se puede."
School of Arts and Sciences senior Marisol Conde-Hernandez, an undocumented immigrant, said the DREAM Act grants conditional permanent residency to those who obtain a two-year college degree or complete two years of military service within six years of the act's passage.
The act requires participants to have a high school degree or GED, to have no criminal record, to have entered the country before age 16 and to have been in the United States continuously for at least five years, Conde-Hernandez said.
"Right now you have an educated underclass, students that have graduated high school, students that are in college, went to college, graduated college and dropped out and they can't do anything with their degrees," she said. "If we legalize them and we give them the opportunity to gain a permanent residency and citizenship, you have a massive group of educated, talented individuals."
Conde-Hernandez said the DREAM Act would ideally be included in any comprehensive immigration reform.
In response to the criticism that undocumented children receive a "free" public education by noting that many undocumented immigrants do file taxes, Conde-Hernandez said workers with fraudulent social security numbers pay with a tax ID number.
"My parents pay taxes. I pay taxes the same way, and all that money is paying off Social Security," she said.
The Social Security Administration estimated that in 2005, people who filed W-2 forms with incorrect or mismatched data paid about $9 billion in taxes from roughly $75 billion in wages, according to an April 2010 USA Today article.
In a Congressional Budget Office report from 2007, tax revenues generated for state and local governments by undocumented immigrants do not offset the total cost of services provided to those immigrants.
Services for undocumented immigrants tally to a small percentage of the total amount of tax revenues spent on residents in the jurisdictions of those governments, according to the report.
Kean University senior Carlos Rojas entered the United States legally at the age of 10 on a two-way visa, which he and his family overstayed.
Rojas, who recently attained citizenship after his mother remarried, pushed for the DREAM Act at the rally because of friends, family and his own personal experience.
"We live in constant fear because our families could be ruptured at any time," he said. "Our dreams could be crushed at any second. My father could go to work and not come back."
Of the estimated 11.9 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, about 550,000 live in New Jersey, with 1.5 million undocumented children living in the United States, according to a 2009 Pew Hispanic Center report.
"The law protects underage minors 18 and younger from being deported, but their parents are deported which pretty much means that these kids are orphans," Rojas said. "When they become of age, they also have the potential of being deported."
When Rojas graduated high school, he was denied a number of scholarships because of his status and spent his summers working 60 hours a week to pay his out-of-state tuition at Kean.
According to dreamact.info, 65,000 undocumented immigrants graduate high school every year and find themselves in a similar predicament.
"We are denying our own talent," Rojas said. "These are kids who came here when they were really young. They had no say."
Sergio Carbales, a Middlesex County College graduate who recently became documented, held a sign from the Service Employees International Union stating comprehensive immigration reform would net a $1.5 trillion boost in GDP over 10 years, while mass deportation would lead to a $2.6 trillion loss in GDP over 10 years.
"Everybody that works in the fields and the restaurants, they're going to lose that labor," Carbales said. "If they go for reform, that would keep all that labor and they would get everything else which is the taxes, and once that's out in the open, [people] could do more like buy houses and contribute to the economy."