University of Houston-Downtown President William V. Flores voiced his desire for passage of the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) this morning. He spoke on a conference call with college presidents from Northern Virginia Community College, Eastern Washington University and the University of California, Berkeley.
If passed by Congress, the DREAM Act would give undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children a shot at permanent residency status, provided they have lived in the country for at least five years without getting in trouble with the law, that they have a high school diploma or equivalency and that they commit to two years of college or military service. According to recent polling, it has widespread support among U.S. voters.
UH-Downtown plays host to about 13,000 students in the middle of, as Flores noted, a "very international city." Approximately 39 percent of the school's students are Hispanic, 29 percent are black, 22 percent white, 5 percent are Asian and 5 percent are international students. Flores said that about 200 or fewer students would be affected by the DREAM Act.
"Tragic" is the word Flores used to describe the plights of students who are held back due to residency status. Many, he said, often can't speak or read their native language because they immigrated at such a young age. He says the DREAM Act would provide a necessary pathway to achievement. "It would be a very unusual way of treating someone to not allow them to contribute," Flores said. "Many of them want to become teachers, doctors, or lawyers and contribute to this society."
On the call, supporters of the act said that while the odds of a congressional vote on more comprehensive immigration reform coming this year appear to be dwindling, it might be easier, in the meantime, to secure passage of the DREAM Act on its own given the bipartisan nature of its support.