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Bills would improve immigrants' access to college.

Several dozen college students, university administrators and immigrant advocates rallied on Capitol Hill earlier this month to support legislation that would make it easier for undocumented immigrants to attend U.S. colleges.

The group was visiting Congress to show its support for a pair of bills that would make it legal for states to offer in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants and to offer them a chance to gain legal residence in America.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., introduced the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2003 last August. The DREAM Act is a companion bill to the Student Adjustment Act, which was originally introduced by Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, in 2001. About 50,000 undocumented immigrants graduate from U.S. high schools each year, and federal law prevents state institutions from granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. This makes the cost of college prohibitively high for many immigrants, barring them from advancing their education.

"Without the promise of a better tomorrow, these young people face despair, choose to drop out and even turn to gangs and illegal activities," Hatch said. "But with the hope of realizing their dreams, these young people are more likely to remain in school and become productive members of our society."

The bills would extend legal permanent residency status to high-school graduates who serve two years in the military, attend two years of college or perform 910 hours of community service during a six-year period while holding a job. It would also make it easier for undocumented immigrants to qualify for in-state-tuition rates.

"I am committed to ensuring that the requirements imposed by this bill are reasonable and can be met by youngsters who are willing to work hard," Hatch said on introducing the bill. "The DREAM Act will enable youngsters who have ambition and motivation to obtain permanent legal status."

The DREAM act would apply to children who immigrated to the U.S. before they turned 16, who have lived in the country for at least five years and who are accepted by an institution of higher learning or upon graduation from high school.

The House Judiciary Committee debated identical legislation during the last Congress, but it was defeated.

Opponents of the bill say it rewards those who break the law at the expense of American citizens.

"When it comes to coveted slots in higher education, this policy frankly pits those who are here without the permission of the U.S. government against those for whom college admission remains a distinct privilege," said John Keeley, director of communications at the Center for Immigration Studies.
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Title Annotation:dateline Washington
Author:Hammer, Ben
Publication:Community College Week
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 29, 2003
Previous Article:Senate says no to Pell increase.
Next Article:Learning our way along.

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