Students march for Minnesota Dream Actby Tom Weber, Minnesota Public Radio
Hundreds of teenagers marched to the state Capitol Tuesday morning to show support for what's known as the Minnesota Dream Act. But despite the show of enthusiasm, the legislation has little chance of passing this year.
St. Paul, Minn. — The proposal would let the children of illegal immigrants pay in-state tuition if they've attended a Minnesota high school for three years, and graduated.
Hundreds of students gathered at a church in St. Paul Tuesday morning before their short march to the Capitol.
A lot of students participating in the rally are not immigrants. They're supporting friends who could possibly benefit from the Dream Act.
Students like eighth grader Mitzi Aguliar, 14, who moved from Mexico to Richfield, Minnesota about nine years ago and wants to be a photographer.
"Why put barriers on education?" she asked. "We're all human and we all deserve a future. And my parents pay taxes, so what's the whole big deal?"
David Cruz, a sophomore at Roosevelt High in Minneapolis, also was born in Mexico and has lived here for about six years.
"Many people, they lose hope that they could do something in the future," Cruz said. "And that's why you have gangs and teen pregnancy. And if they gave us equal education everybody could get a chance. All of those things would reduce, and people would start dreaming again."
Some students worry that an anti-immigrant backlash in the wake of last month's bus crash in Cottonwood might hurt the Dream Act's chances.
The woman accused of causing the crash, which killed four children, was found to be in the country illegally, and didn't have a driver's license. For a while, authorities didn't know her real name.
The sponsor of the Dream Act in the state Senate has no plans to call for a vote this year. Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, said that's because of the governor's threat of a veto.
"As long as we have Tim Pawlenty as governor, I don't think it's going to go anywhere," Pappas said.
Pawlenty has said he doesn't like the idea of giving benefits to students who aren't citizens, when Iowans, for example, can't go to Minnesota schools at the in-state rate.
Pappas said a vote would only invite false hope.
Organizers say they are encouraged that 22 state colleges and universities charge tuition at a flat rate, meaning residency doesn't matter -- everyone pays the same.
They also note 11 other states have passed versions of the Dream Act. They are: California, Texas, Washington, New York, Oklahoma, Illinois, Kansas, Utah, Mississippi, Nebraska, and New Mexico.
Tuesday's march also included a college fair for the teens, which plays into a larger effort. If the Dream Act doesn't pass, organizers say at least it gets young people involved in politics.
The Minnesota push is separate from efforts to pass a federal DREAM Act. At the federal level, DREAM stands for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act. It includes a path to citizenship if students serve in the military or attend school. The state bill is aimed only at the in-state tuition issue.
- All Things Considered, 03/04/2008, 5:26 p.m.