Rutgers student assembly endorses the DREAM act
At Rutgers University, the current status of approximately 400 students is up in the air after the White House announced in September of this year that it will rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, according to a recent report published by the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA).
During last Thursday's full-body meeting, RUSA took a definitive step toward their goal to support undocumented students by passing legislation entitled "Resolution to Endorse The DREAM Act and Call for the Extension of the Temporary Protected Status Program."
“As an assembly, it’s important that we continue to show support for every individual that’s a part of our Rutgers community, regardless of citizenship status,” said Evan Covello, RUSA president and an Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy senior.
The legislation was sponsored by the Legislative Affairs Committee and presented by the Committee Chairwoman Suzanne Link, a Rutgers Business School junior.
Spurred to action by the White House’s looming threat to DACA, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Representatives Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) introduced the most recent version of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act to both houses of Congress in July of 2017, according to the RUSA report.
Link presented the resolution to the RUSA student body on Thursday evening, along with three members of UndocuRutgers — Co-Presidents Josue Serrano, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, and Sergio Abreu, a School of Engineering senior and Parliamentarian Stephanie Márquez-Villafañe, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.
The three students also collaborated as authors of the legislation.
“To believe in this resolution, you have to believe that there’s a problem,” Abreu said to RUSA members. “And the problem is you’ll hear people say, ‘The immigration system is broken,’ but what does that mean?”
Abreu explained that many people come to the United States to work because there is a high demand for laborers, and it is very beneficial for immigrants to come to complete the jobs.
“And with that, either they leave, or they bring their children here and try to start a life. So the DREAM Act, what it really does, is focus on these children,” he said. “Because these children are placed with a burden that they never asked for, and they have no control over. They didn’t ask to come here ... they have no control over this.”
Abreu also noted that immigrants contribute positively to the U.S. economy and are also statistically less likely to be criminals than natural born citizens.
Forbes reported last year that undocumented immigrants pay an estimated $11.64 billion in state and local taxes annually.
“But the real question is, what have we done to belong here — how do you define ‘American?' Is it just because you were born in this country?” he said.
He said that for many immigrants who live most of their life in this country and go through the American school system, the only thing stopping them from being "American" is a piece of paper.
“So this is what this bill does,” he said of the 2017 DREAM Act. “It gives them an actual pathway (to citizenship), because before this, we didn’t even give them a chance.”
Link added that last February, RUSA as a body passed a resolution to support the Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy (BRIDGE) Act.
One of the main differences between the BRIDGE Act and the 2017 DREAM Act is that the latter provides a clear pathway to obtain citizenship, she said.
According to the RUSA report, the 2017 DREAM act provides a 13-year pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.
“Whether or not my mom will get pulled over one day and get deported the next, that is a reality for me,” Serrano said to the audience.
He said the fact of being undocumented in this country is not a notion of legality—it is a civil infraction.
“I want to clarify that I am not illegal. No one is illegal,” Serrano said, expressing concern over the 36 individuals who were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in late October.
While fielding questions from the audience, Link emphasized that the people who would be protected under the DREAM Act are not “free-riders.”
“There are strict requirements to be eligible to be protected under the DREAM Act,” she said.
She explained that Dreamers must have been admitted to an institution of higher education, be enrolled in a secondary education program or have been granted DACA and since then refrained from any conduct which would jeopardize that status.
“So these are contributing members of our society, these are people who are driven, these are people who are working,” Link said, appealing to the audience to consider the economic gain the country has experienced due to the productivity of this population.
Fifty-four RUSA members voted in support of the resolution on Thursday, 0 voted against, and 6 abstained from voting.
Now that the resolution has been passed, RUSA as a body will be able to advocate in support of the DREAM Act, Link said, something they were unable to do previously due to the assembly’s technicalities and procedures.
RUSA anticipates working with UndocuRutgers to support the federal legislation.
“We felt that it was extremely important to show our undocumented classmates that they are welcome and supported at Rutgers,” Link later told The Daily Targum in an email, noting that many RUSA members have participated in phone banking efforts to contact members of Congress in support of pro-immigration legislation.
Regarding state-level work, Link said that RUSA also looks forward to working with Governor-elect Phil Murphy and the New Jersey Legislature to support students.
“We will continue to advocate on behalf of those affected by the repeal of DACA,” she said. “RUSA will make a conscious effort to maintain open and clear lines of communication with students and organizations within our community in order to ensure that we are best representing the students we are advocating on behalf of.”