Activists seek to pass state version of DREAM act

Undocumented youth and activists are propeling a Pennsylvania DREAM Act. When the federal DREAM Act failed in the Senate in late 2010, a number of states took to state legislation to offer assistance to undocumented

Undocumented youth and activists are propeling a Pennsylvania DREAM Act.

When the federal DREAM Act failed in the Senate in late 2010, a number of states took to state legislation to offer assistance to undocumented immigrant youth attending college. In June, Pennsylvania followed in their footsteps.

Introduced by State Rep. Tony Payton (D-Philadelphia), the Pennsylvania Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act would allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition, if passed.

To qualify, the undocumented citizens would have to have attended three years of school in Pennsylvania and must have graduated from a high school in the state. Students’ parents must have also filed Pennsylvania income taxes for at least three years while the children were in school, and must continue to pay income taxes while the student is enrolled in higher education.

Temple for a DREAM President Caroline Ezzo hopes to assist in the bill’s passage.

Ezzo is trying to raise awareness about the act by gaining more members for her student organization.

The junior political science and economics major said she plans to hold a mock graduation for undocumented students at the Bell Tower, and wants to hold sit-ins at Gov. Tom Corbett’s office.

“Having an educated youth should be every state’s and country and community’s priority,” Ezzo said. “Not only economically does it help the state competitively by having an educated youth, but it makes for a safer, better off community and state.”

Aside from the Main Campus organization, undocumented youth and activists from across the state are trying to garner support for the bill.

Organizer for DreamActivist Pennsylvania and sophomore business major at the University of Pennsylvania, Tania Chairez is also an undocumented citizen. She joins other activists every Thursday to discuss how to advance rights for others like herself.

At a recent meeting inside a small room at 1216 Arch St., Chairez explained to a group where Hughestown, Pa. is located – a town she said is small, but important.

Chairez had traveled there to persuade State Rep. Mike Carroll (D- Luzerne and Monroe) to co-sponsor the bill the same day it was introduced by Payton.

“He didn’t know what undocumented students do, what [they are],” Chairez said. “He wanted to know about…students without a visa and those who crossed the border illegally.”

Chairez said Carroll was impressed that she traveled nearly 100 miles to meet, but would not co-sponsor the bill. Instead he told her he would vote for it.

The response didn’t impress Dave Bennion, a staff attorney for the Nationalities Service Center and member of DreamActivist Pennsylvania.

“The more people see it being co-sponsored, [the more] it will make it more [of an] interest,” Bennion said.

Ezzo said some legislators are afraid of losing more conservative constituents by becoming associated with, “undocumented anybody.”

“But really if you look at the people working for immigration reform and people working for the DREAM Act [they have] totally different agendas and I think that’s a very important thing for people to see,” Ezzo said, noting that the act is intended to help the youth that are already here.

The Pennsylvania DREAM Act that Payton introduced is a scaled back version of a farther-reaching federal DREAM Act that was passed in the House of Representatives but failed to gain enough votes in the Senate in December 2010. The federal DREAM Act would have allowed undocumented immigrants brought here as children, who met specific criteria, to be put on a path toward citizenship through higher education or military service.

Payton said most student-aged undocumented immigrants know only America as home and want an education but, “They just lack a nine-digit Social Security card.”

Bills similar to the proposed Pennsylvania DREAM Act have passed in 12 states, including Maryland and New York, allowing undocumented immigrants who meet the state’s requirements to pay in-state tuition.

The Illinois DREAM Act, which was signed into law in early August, is the first bill to provide undocumented and documented immigrant students the choice of private college scholarships and state-college saving programs.

But opposition to the DREAM Act remains a force against progressives.

Representatives such as State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) have voiced criticism about the commonwealth’s bill. Last September, Metcalfe proposed a bill to give local law enforcement the authority to apprehend undocumented citizens in the state, for deportation.

Today, Aug. 30, a series of bills proposed by Metcalfe known as “National Security Begins at Home,” will be discussed in Harrisburg. The bills seek to create tougher policies on undocumented citizens.

Victoria Hudgins can be reached at


  1. Although I understand that these children/young adults came here (most) by way of their parents and had no choice, but that does not settle the issue of “illegal”. We are at time where there is no money, and the taxpayers of this State already pay lots of money and we have no say about where our money goes and what programs should be implemented and supported. We already know that about only 44% of hispanic kids graduate from high, a very few complete junior college, and I do not have the numbers on how many graduate from universities. Who pays back if and when these kids do not pay back their loans, and what about the grants that would have otherwise gone to children of american citizens, etc. Our educational system has suffered since the illegal immigrants have poured into this country, and this is not right.

  2. >> “the taxpayers of this State already pay lots of money and we have no say about where our money goes and what programs should be implemented and supported”

    i believe this is where your problem is. regardless of the number of illegal immigrants in this country, it is a system that is diseased from the inside out. politicians get loads of anonymous money given to them daily and instead of using it to help the people of the country, it gets pumped into their own pockets or a re-election campaign. a re-election campaign where they continue and continue to make empty promises and compete as if it was a celebrity competition. It doesn’t matter who is in this country and who pays taxes, when the leaders of a country dont care about the people and continue to be greedy war-mongers and and corrupt shysters AND when the laws set up have made these practices completely legal and “ok”, the country will continue to run into the ground and it will continue to die, as it has for sometime now.

  3. I hate ignorance -__- especially coming from Americans, i think your all becoming stupid every generation.

  4. First of all illegal immigrants can not apply for financial aid, grants, loans etc. They pay out of packet and that’s why only a few graduate from college.

  5. Because amnesty worked so well in the 80s…. Immigration is good… Not illegal immigration. Its just a damn shame that our neighbors to the south suffering through events that occur on a daily basis there…. however, we need to correct our own problems before we can be the worlds safety net.

  6. It’s simple really… you don’t pay taxes, you don’t reap the benefits. My husbands family fought hard and paid A LOT to obtain their green cards. My brother in law, that was born here will be entering college next year. I am currently helping him go through the proccess, college tours, etc. It’s a fun time for him. Is this really fair to him?? His parents LEGALLY perused their dream for their children and now he wont get his fair share because illegal immigrants get a piece of the pie they didn’t add any ingredients too. That doesn’t sound right to me.

  7. Please get your fact straight. New York’s state Dream Act did not pass. When you phrase that the law similar to Dream Act has been pass in 12 states including New York, please indicate that this in-state tuition is only avaiable to CUNY and some SUNY; not all colleges in New York. New York’s Dream Act bill is still in pending status for review by various committee within NY Assembly. Please respect the journalism and its ethics. Thank you.

  8. Their “Dream” is for tuition only afforded to those who follow the law. They should not be mad at those who do not want to give them tuition on the taxpayer dime, they should be mad at their parents for bringing them into this country illegally. Simply put, illegals are people, but they don’t deserve the same benefits as citizens. Become citizens and this problem won’t exist. I want you to become a US Citizen and follow the law, and things like the Dream Act do nothing but make it ok to be illegal and not citizens of the US. It is ridiculous “progressives” pandering to voters.

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