Deporting America’s Future: Harvard Student Pushes for DREAM Act

Harvard sophomore, Eric Balderas, knows why the DREAM Act is important to so many. Earlier this month, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) picked up Balderas in Boston on his way to visit his mother in San Antonio, Texas. Balderas now faces the possibility of deportation at a hearing next month. The 19 year old biology major was valedictorian of his high school class and is on a full scholarship at Harvard. Sadly, Balderas is just one of roughly 1.5 million unauthorized immigrant children—many of whom don’t speak Spanish and consider themselves American—currently living in the U.S. who are at risk for deportation. How many of America’s talented youth must the U.S. deport before Congress musters the courage to act?

If passed, the DREAM Act would allow qualified young people—who were brought to the U.S. without documentation—to adjust their status to “conditional permanent resident” given he/she meets the requirements. Balderas, who came to the U.S. illegally when he was four, is a perfect candidate for the DREAM Act—he entered the U.S. before the age of 16, earned a high school diploma, is a person of good moral character and has no criminal record.

Eric’s case prompted Harvard President, Drew Faust, to issue this statement:

[The DREAM Act provides] a lifeline to these students who are already working hard in our middle and high schools and living in our communities by granting them the temporary legal status that would allow them to pursue postsecondary education.

In the first years of enactment, the DREAM Act would help approximately 360,000 qualified high-school graduates to receive conditional residency. Over the next 13 years, the bill would also provide incentives for another 715,000 youngsters (an average of 55,000 a year) currently between the ages of 5 and 17 to finish high school and pursue post-secondary education.

According to Harvard’s vice president of public affairs and communications, Christine Heenan:

Eric Balderas has already demonstrated the discipline and work ethic required for rigorous university work, and has, like so many of our undergraduates, expressed an interest in making a difference in the world.

These dedicated young people are vital to our nation’s future, and President Faust’s support of the DREAM Act reflects Harvard’s commitment to access and opportunity for students like Eric.

To date, the DREAM Act has 38 cosponsors in the Senate and 123 in the House, with bipartisan support in both. Sponsorship of the bill, however, does not guarantee its movement or passage. (Recall that the DREAM Act failed in a cloture vote in 2007.) Although a group of undocumented college students—along with Senators Durbin (D-IL) and Lugar (R-IN)—have urged the White House and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to halt the deportation of eligible DREAM Act students in the absence of a larger immigration overhaul, their efforts seem to have fallen on deaf ears. The question, however, remains—why would the U.S. want to deport talented students, educated in the U.S., who are clearly economic and social assets to this country?

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  • Sheila Latimer

    Proponents of the Dream Act should be more inclusive. Although the majority of candidates for the Dream Act may be from Latino backgrounds, many are not, and those who are not include many who are sent to this country as kinds of indentured servants, living with people (not their parents) who allow them to go to school, but otherwise treat them as indentured servants. Since they are not victims of violent crimes, they are not eligible for U visas, either. A client of mine was granted a full scholarship but could not take advantage of it because she is illegal. How can Balderas take advantage of his scholarship? Ranting has been usually directed agst the judges in these cases, who order voluntary deportation when no other relief is available, but energy should be re-directed to the government who issues charging documents, and who fights bonds of any kind. A recent client of mine, 20 yrs. old, who is engaged to a USC was advised that the government would argue agst bond because when she came over alone, at age 12 years old, she was EWI and not 245(i) protected and therefore had no relief, notwithstanding the fact that her mother was a deaf mute who was raped and abandoned her as a child. The government ignores the Meissner Memorandum, in general. Although the immigration judge is considered one of the strictest in the U.S., it was he who argued she should be afforded some bond, and it was he who persuaded the govt. to acept abond of $7,500 so that they would not appeal.

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