‘Dream’ student invited to State of the Union

Alan Aleman, a Mexico-born “Dream” student was among Michelle Obama’s guests for the State of the Union address. Aleman, a student at the College of Southern Nevada, was one of the first in Nevada to sign up for deferred action for undocumented youth, which includes a renewable work permit. Aleman hopes to join the Air Force and become a doctor.

Dreaming Big

In Dreaming Big, the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education (CCCIE) recommends ways for community colleges to serve a new wave of young immigrants. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, announced by the Obama administration in June, will let undocumented immigrants who arrived as children stay in the U.S. and work legally, if they meet educational and other requirements. Many are expected to enroll in community colleges.

The report deals with increasing college access, extending financial aid to make college affordable, supporting college readiness and success, offering alternatives for adult learners and improving college retention and completion.

Amnesty doesn’t require college, military service

President Obama’s quasi-amnesty for young illegal immigrants doesn’t require college attendance or military service, according to Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano’s memo. Applicants who came illegally by age 16 and are 30 or younger must pass a background check showing no felonies or multiple misdemeanors. In addition, the applicant must be: “currently in school, has graduated from high school, has obtained a general education development certificate, or is an honorably discharged veteran of  the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the  United States.” Those who qualify will be able to get two-year work permits renewable indefinitely.

“In school” seems to refer to high school. Would dropouts qualify if they enroll in GED or basic skills classes at a community college?  Do they have to pass their classes?

The military provision is a bit puzzling: Illegal immigrants aren’t eligible to serve in the military. However, a few use fraudulent papers to enlist. The order doesn’t say whether those who qualify for temporary work permits will be allowed to serve in the military. If so, would their service qualify them for citizenship?  I can’t imagine denying citizenship to military veterans.

In May, speaking at the commencement of Miami Dade College‘s commencement ceremonies, President Obama reaffirmed his support for the Dream Act, which provides a path to citizenship for young immigrants who complete two years of college or serve in the military in the six years after qualifying for conditional legal status. The executive order doesn’t promise citizenship.

Obama issues ‘Dream’ order

Congress has refused to pass the Dream Act, which would offer a path to citizenship to young illegal immigrants who enroll in college or serve in the military. But today President Obama ordered a halt to deportations for people under 30 who arrived illegally before the age of 16 and lived in the U.S. for five years. Immigrants must be high school graduates or GED holders with no criminal record, be enrolled in postsecondary education or serve in the military. (Presumably college graduates would be eligible.) Immigrants who qualify will be able to apply for work permits.

While young immigrants won’t get a path to legal status and citizenship, they’ll be able to apply for a two-year “deferred action” that removes the threat of deportation for up to two years, with repeated extensions. “This is not immunity, it is not amnesty,” said Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary. “It is an exercise of discretion.”

The order will cover about 800,000 people, the administration estimates. Counting children under 18 with undocumented status, it will affect up to 1.4 million immigrants, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. It could persuade young Latinos to stay in high school or, at least, to earn a GED. Since many immigrants enroll in community college — and those who are’t in school can easily do so — the order could lead to an enrollment surge at community colleges.

Republican pushes STARS instead of DREAM

Republican alternative to the DREAM Act creates a path to citizenship for children brought illegally to the U.S. — if they complete a bachelor’s degree. But the STARS (Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status) Act, introduced by Florida Rep. David Rivera, doesn’t have broad Republican support.

(The bill) would grant alien conditional nonimmigrant status to those who have been in the U.S. at least five years at the time of the bill’s enactment, were brought to the U.S. younger than 16 years old, have earned a high school diploma or GED, have been admitted to an accredited four-year college, and are of “good moral character.”

Upon graduation, a student could apply for a five-year visa renewal, followed by applying for permanent residency and eventually citizenship.

Students who fail to graduate would lose their conditional status.

A separate Rivera bill, the ARMS (Adjusted Residency for Military Service) Act creates a path to citizenship through military service.

By contrast, the DREAM Act requires two years of college — graduation is not required — or two years of military service. That’s a much lower bar.

Most immigrant students who go to college start at a community college. Those who are undocumented aren’t eligible for state or federal aid. Few go on to complete a bachelor’s degree. Of course, STARS might motivate more students to seek a four-year degree, but it ignores other productive paths. Military service would provide another option, but not everyone is healthy enough to serve.

Dream Act repeal fails in California

California’s Dream Act, which makes undocumented students eligible for state-funded college aid, will not face a challenge on the ballot. The campaign to overturn what critics called the “nightmare act” failed to gather enough signatures by the deadline.

California offers college aid to aliens

California Dream Act Offers Path to College for Undocumented Students is my latest U.S. News story.

At San Jose’s Downtown College Prep, the school in my book, nearly all undocumented graduates enroll in community college, work part time and live at home to keep costs down. The new “Dream Act” will make low-income students eligible for fee waivers and then for Cal Grants when they transfer to a university.

But it’s not just about money, says Jennifer Andaluz, the school’s executive director. Students see the new law as a “symbolic win,” perhaps a step toward a federal law that would include a path to citizenship. And even without that, most believe they’ll find a way to legalize some day, somehow, Andaluz says. “They’re very optimistic, very hopeful, very resilient.”

In most states undocumented students aren’t eligible for state aid or even for in-state tuition. As a result, only 5 percent to 10 percent of undocumented high school graduates enroll in college, estimates the Immigration Policy Center. Those who do are highly motivated.

“They hunger for education in a way that, sadly, some students in our country do not,” says Isa Adney, a student life coordinator at Seminole State College in Florida.

At Downtown College Prep, which sends all its graduates to college, undocumented students are much more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree within six years than their classmates who are citizens or legal residents, says Andaluz. “Their attitude seems to be: ‘My parents sacrificed so much for me. I can’t squander my opportunities. The golden gates are going to open and I need to be ready.’”

Opponents of the law are gathering signatures for a ballot initiative that would repeal what they call the “Nightmare Act.”

Steve Jobs: Train factory engineers

At a dinner with President Obama in February, Steve Jobs said Apple could manufacture in the U.S. if community colleges, tech and trade schools trained “factory engineers,” writes Walter Isaacson in his biography of the high-tech leader.

Apple had 700,000 factory workers employed in China, he said, and that was because it needed 30,000 engineers on-site to support those workers. ‘You can’t find that many in America to hire,’ he said. These factory engineers did not have to be PhDs or geniuses; they simply needed to have basic engineering skills for manufacturing. Tech schools, community colleges, or trade schools could train them. ‘If you could educate those engineers,’ he said, ‘we could move more manufacturing plants here.’

“The argument made a strong impression on the president. Two or three times over the next month he told his aides, ‘We’ve got to find ways to train those 30,000 manufacturing engineers that Jobs told us about.’

Jobs also suggested that all foreign students earning engineering degrees in the U.S. be given visas to stay and work. Obama said that could be done only in conjunction with the Dream Act. Jobs thought that was lame.

So do I. College graduates with needed skills who’ve studied here legally are not the same as high school graduates who’ve come here illegally (as children), even if they’ve acquired some college credits. I do think the Dream Act could pass if it offered citizenship based on military service, which people see as a sacrifice, rather than college enrollment, which, unfortunately, doesn’t guarantee useful skills.

Governor signs California Dream Act

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed the California Dream Act, which makes illegal immigrants eligible for state financial aid at public universities and community colleges, reports the Los Angeles Times.

However, the governor vetoed a bill that would have allowed state universities to consider applicants’ race, gender and income to ensure diversity. A state initiative bans college admission preferences based on race and ethnicity.

Brown also vetoed a bill that would have made it harder to start charter schools.

The California Dream Act applies to students who’ve graduated from state high school after attending for at least three years and have affirmed they’re trying to legalize their status. Starting in 2013, they’ll be able to apply for Cal-Grants for low-income students, University of California and California State University grants and community college fee waivers.

“Going to college is a dream that promises intellectual excitement and creative thinking,” Brown said in a statement. “The Dream Act benefits us all by giving top students a chance to improve their lives and the lives of all of us.”

The Dream Act will allow 2,500 additional students to qualify for Cal-Grants at a cost of $14.5 million, Brown estimates. That represents 1 percent of the total cost.  Most immigrant students enroll at community colleges, so the cost of fee waivers could be much greater.

The state budget is in the red. More cuts to higher education are likely. Already, students are having trouble getting into the classes they need, especially at the community college level.

Republicans predict the Dream Act will draw more illegal immigrants to the state.

I predict a state initiative to repeal the bill and a backlash against illegal immigrants.

California dreaming

California’s Dream Act, which offers state aid to undocumented college students, passed the Legislature on Friday;  Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to sign the bill.

High school graduates with three or more years in California could apply for Cal Grants, which pay for tuition, fees, books and living expenses for lower-income students.

Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, introduced the bill and said that it is necessary to ensure that California has an educated workforce in the future, including students who didn’t come to the country by their own choice but excelled in school.

“We will need them for our future, for our position in the global economy,” he said. “We don’t have one student to spare.”

Democrats passed the bill on a party-line vote.

The bill is expected to cost the state up to $40 million per year to fund grants to an estimated 34,000 community college students, 3,600 in the California State University system, and as many as 642 in the University of California system.

Once students earn degrees, they’ll be unable to work legally in the state, critics said. The federal Dream Act, which includes a path to citizenship through college attendance or military service, has failed repeatedly.