Dreamers in Action Standing

June 4, 2009 1:06:19 AM PDT
There's a club at Fresno State where membership has few privileges. The club is called "Dreamers in Action Standing" and the one thing members have in common is that they're all undocumented students.Not too long ago, walking the campus of Fresno State seemed like a far-fetched dream for Laura, Janette and Claudia.

All three girls were top students in high school, but their illegal status in this country made college seem impossible.

"That is one of the reasons we started this club because we know how hard it is and we just want some support," said Janette.

The club is "Dreamers in Action Standing" ... named after the Dream Act, the proposed federal legislation that would provide certain undocumented students who came to the U.S. as children the opportunity to earn permanent residency.

"We're learning to say what we do and our mission, but at the same time not expose just one individual, because you know things might happen," said Laura.

The club's mission is to provide support and information ... Laura, the club's president says many undocumented high school students don't know that California law allows them to attend college.

"Some students aren't even aware what is AB 540 ... until they hit college, so I saw the need to inform students and not only the students but their parents, staff members," said Laura.

They also try to raise money to help one another pay for tuition and other expenses. Because they can't get jobs or financial aid, group members rely on scholarships and university stipends, earned through community service.

"I want to make my parents proud because they have always pushed me to go to college, get good grades," said Janette.

Raul Moreno is the club's advisor ... he says there are at least 250 students at Fresno State in the same situation.

Moreno said, "A lot of students ... their main question is why should I go to college if I am not able to work?"

Moreno encourages them to keep studying because he says many will adjust their status by the time they earn their masters. Like 21-year old Claudia, who entered the U.S. illegally when she was nine years old. She says she felt invisible and afraid, until two years ago.

"When I got the paper, the certificate that I was a US citizen, I don't know ... I felt like I could do more things, I could go out and be free," said Claudia.

A freedom she now hopes her friends can achieve through the Dream Act.

Opponents, like the Federation for American Immigration Reform, say the Dream Act takes away opportunities from U.S. citizens and provides another incentive for illegal immigration.

"In effect, the Dream Act is amnesty and like all amnesty plans it rewards illegal behavior; it encourages more illegal immigration and it is fundamentally unfair to those who came here legally."

But Raul Moreno believes without the Dream Act ... it's the U.S. that will be losing out.

"I have students who have gone on to complete their doctorate in Canada and to our loss ... they are doing great, and are working for other countries that do take advantage of their talents," said Moreno.

The Dream Act was re-introduced into both houses of congress this past March. If the bill passes, it will affect approximately 65-thousand undocumented students in the U.S.

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