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Students push for immigration reform

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On May 12, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., said he will no longer co-sponsor federal legislation that would create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Once a supporter of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors legislation – known as the DREAM Act – Lugar changed his mind about the bill just two days after Gov. Mitch Daniels signed House Bill 1402, which denies in-state college tuition to undocumented immigrants in Indiana.

For students like Omar Gama, the new law is another setback on the elusive path to citizenship.

Gama, a 20-year-old undocumented immigrant who has lived in the United States since age 11, will begin his junior year this fall at Indiana University, where he is president of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs Undergraduate Student Association. If he were to attend full-time, his annual tuition would jump from $9,028 to $27,688.
 

sb590-15col.jpg Five undocumented immigrant students sat on the floor of Gov. Mitch Daniels’ office on May 9, in protest of Senate Bill 590 and House Bill 1402. Pictured here are twin brothers Erick (left) and Uriel “Omar” Gama. Both are students at Indiana University. (Photo courtesy Stephen Pavey)

“Right now, I’ve been applying for private scholarships,” Gama said. His parents will help pay for the remainder of his tuition, as they have in the past, but it will be a struggle for them to cover costs for Gama and his brother.

“Even if I have to go into being a part-time student and do one or two classes per semester, the signing of this bill is not going to stop me from getting an education,” Gama said.

Increasingly, Gama and other undocumented immigrant students have been making their presence known in an effort to draw attention to the DREAM Act, which if passed, could allow them to become citizens by attending college or serving in the military. On May 9, Gama and four other students were arrested during a protest at the Indiana Statehouse when they refused to leave Gov. Mitch Daniels’ office. Wearing caps and gowns, the students joined arms and sat in a circle, waiting to ask the governor to veto HB 1402 and its companion legislation, Senate Bill 590. They are scheduled to appear in court June 14 to face criminal trespass charges.

Through websites like www.thedreamiscoming.com/, students can learn about what student activists are doing in other parts of the county. While sit-ins and rallies may be drawing attention to their cause, the push for reform is not new.

“As a group and as a movement, we’ve seen young people working towards DREAM for 10 years now,” said Kathy Souchet-Mourda, a board member with the Latino/a Youth Collective.

Having waited half their lives for an opportunity to become citizens, they are putting themselves at great risk, she said, in order to make a stand.

“These are young people who are coming out of the shadows,” she said. They are students who have grown up, she explained, afraid of what might happen to them as undocumented immigrants. But now, “They’re owning that status – being proud of who they are – as students, as young people, as contributors to their society,” Souchet-Mourda said.

In 2010, the Indianapolis non-profit La Plaza, along with the LYC and other Latino groups, presented an award to Lugar for his longtime support of the DREAM Act. Gama, when asked what he thought about Lugar withdrawing his support of the act, said, “I honestly don’t know what to think. I just hope that if and when it comes to vote, he will support the DREAM Act like he has for nine or 10 years.”

Lugar’s communications director, Andy Fisher, issued a statement that said the senator would not co-sponsor the new DREAM Act introduced by congressional Democrats because of President Barack Obama’s May 10 speech in El Paso, Texas.

“President Obama’s appearance in Texas framed immigration as a divisive election issue instead of attempting a legitimate debate on comprehensive reform. Ridiculing Republicans was clearly a partisan push that effectively stops a productive discussion about comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act before the 2012 election,” Fisher wrote. “The DREAM Act focuses on a select few high achieving students who would pay their own way to go to college or would join the military, and would not be recipients of government assistance. It is a very rigorous path, not amnesty, for a few good students who are not responsible for decisions their parents made. They should not be used in a political game. By doing so, the Obama Administration has guaranteed the bill will not move in this Congress.”

Souchet-Mourda said that Obama could do more to help people like Gama. Some students in other parts of the country who have announced their status are now facing deportation.

“Right now, in absence of the DREAM Act, President Obama could provide an administrative relief for our DREAMers,” she said. “It’s a waste of resources trying to deport students. There’s definitely a push on our side to give these young people some sort of relief from deportation as they’re working hard, going to school, doing all the things that we told them to do.”

She said she would like to see more local efforts to support immigrants who want to become citizens. “We’re already investing dollars in helping them to get through K-12,” she said. The DREAM Act is just one small step toward addressing the larger question of how to give all students – immigrant or otherwise – access to higher education, Souchet-Mourda said•
 

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  1. Ah yes... Echoes of 1963 as a ghostly George Wallace makes his stand at the Schoolhouse door. We now know about the stand of personal belief over service to all constituents at the Carter County Clerk door. The results are the same, bigotry unable to follow the directions of the courts and the courts win. Interesting to watch the personal belief take a back seat rather than resign from a perception of local power to make the statement.

  2. An oath of office, does it override the conscience? That is the defense of overall soldier who violates higher laws, isnt it? "I was just following orders" and "I swore an oath of loyalty to der Fuhrer" etc. So this is an interesting case of swearing a false oath and then knowing that it was wrong and doing the right thing. Maybe they should chop her head off too like the "king's good servant-- but God's first" like St Thomas More. ...... We wont hold our breath waiting for the aclu or other "civil liberterians" to come to her defense since they are all arrayed on the gay side, to a man or should I say to a man and womyn?

  3. Perhaps we should also convene a panel of independent anthropological experts to study the issues surrounding this little-known branch of human sacrifice?

  4. I'm going to court the beginning of Oct. 2015 to establish visitation and request my daughters visits while she is in jail. I raised my grandchild for the first two and half years. She was born out of wedlock and the father and his adopted mother wantwd her aborted, they went as far as sueing my daughter for abortion money back 5mo. After my grandchild was born. Now because of depression and drug abuse my daughter lost custody 2 and a half years ago. Everyting went wrong in court when i went for custody my lawyer was thrown out and a replacment could only stay 45 min. The judge would not allow a postponement. So the father won. Now he is aleinating me and my daughter. No matter the amount of time spent getting help for my daughter and her doing better he runs her in the ground to the point of suicide because he wants her to be in a relationship with him. It is a sick game of using my grandchild as a pawn to make my daughter suffer for not wanting to be with him. I became the intervener in the case when my daughter first got into trouble. Because of this they gave me her visitation. Im hoping to get it again there is questions of abuse on his part and I want to make sure my grandchild is doing alright. I really dont understand how the parents have rights to walk in and do whatever they want when the refuse to stand up and raise the child at first . Why should it take two and a half years to decide you want to raise your child.The father used me so he could finish college get a job and stop paying support by getting custody. Support he was paying my daughter that I never saw.

  5. Pence said when he ordered the investigation that Indiana residents should be troubled by the allegations after the video went viral. Planned Parenthood has asked the government s top health scientists at the National Institutes of Health to convene a panel of independent experts to study the issues surrounding the little-known branch of medicine.

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