Thursday, October 11, on short notice, I was asked to go to a meeting for something called DREAM Act in the Taos High gym. I hadn’t planned to go, but the event was sponsored by UNM-Taos and a group called Somos Un Pueblo Unido, choreographed and produced by Taos High students themselves. It sounded interesting.
The meeting was a half hour late getting started, but, surprisingly, well over a hundred people eventually showed up. Family by family, they kept coming in. Working people who had grabbed a bite, cleaned up the kids and rushed to a gym in Taos on a Thursday night. For a meeting that had something to do with education.
A press release said that DREAM Act stood for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act.
I had no idea what that meant, but Representative Bobby Gonzales seemed to think it was important, and Erlinda Gonzales was there, and Nick Jaramillo, and Arsenio Cordova, head of the school board along with Dr. Catherine Collins, Director of Instruction for Taos Municipal Schools, and Henry Trujillo, Senior Student Enrollment Associate for UNM-Taos, and Tom Trujillo from Senator Domenici’s office, and a few others on the front line.
It turns out that DREAM Act is a federal bill coming before Congress next month which would allow undocumented immigrant youth who are of good character and were brought to the United States as young children to go to college and, if all goes well, eventually repair their undocumented status. It is being sponsored in the Senate by Richard Durbin (D-Il) and in the House of Representatives by Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fl).
If passed, DREAM Act would grant temporary legal status to qualified undocumented resident students who have a high school diploma or GED. Then after six years (including two years of college or military service) they would be eligible to apply for permanent residency and citizenship. At the same time DREAM Act would make it easier for these students to obtain all-important help with in-state tuition and financial aid.
In other words, the act would make it possible for undocumented students to attain full citizenship, obtain post secondary training, get a social security card and legally pursue the very career or profession made possible by their academic success.
One by one, students from Taos High and Capital High in Santa Fe began reading prepared statements, sometimes in English, sometimes in Spanish, sometimes both. They were deeply personal, moving narratives of coming to the United States as children and learning to adapt to a new way of life. But the recurring themes were striking:
This is my country, the only one I have ever really known. My friends are here. My future is here. If I work hard enough, shouldn’t I have a chance to be a part of the American dream?
Juan Montes, Title Five Program Manager at UNM-Taos, took a broader view. “I believe we have a social responsibility to the most needy among us, but this bill also makes good economic sense. If we can take down the barriers to education for the undocumented immigrant students, we are creating a model for success for every child in our community.”
To paraphrase what many of the students seemed to be saying:
Just because we don’t have social security numbers doesn’t mean we don’t have dreams.
Classes started Monday for the UNM-Taos Fall Harvest of short and intensive courses. This is something new at UNM-Taos, and it’s not too late to get in on the bumper crop of class offerings.
And at $56 per credit hour, it’s a deal you really shouldn’t miss.
It’s hard for a lot of people to juggle jobs, kids and other commitments with a college course that runs a full 16 week semester. So UNM-Taos is trying out an eight week schedule for full credit or personal enrichment. Interest has been brisk, and it was decided to extend registration clear up until the class meets. Those who want a part of the Harvest should look through the schedule of classes with the bright orange pumpkins on the cover, and call 758-6200 to find out if you can still get into your favorite class.
The variety is impressive: you can take a class in Raku pottery, peruse traditional ecological knowledge with Estevan Arellano, take Composition I, Power Point, Statistics or Fly Fishing.
The dark days of winter are almost upon us. Let the light of knowledge shine through!