University News

Simmons, students speak at DREAM Act rally

By
Contributing Writer
Wednesday, December 1, 2010

President Ruth Simmons signed a letter to Rhode Island’s senators in support of the DREAM Act at Tuesday’s rally.

A group of students and professors, joined by President Ruth Simmons, rallied on the steps of the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center at noon Tuesday, urging U.S. senators to pass the DREAM Act.

Two undocumented immigrant students spoke about their struggles, and Simmons and two professors expressed their support for the legislation.

The rally was organized by the Brown Immigrant Rights Coalition, a group of students, faculty and community members engaging in advocacy work around immigration issues.

Under the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, young people who have been in the country for at least five years and hold a high school degree would be given provisional immigrant status. They would then have six years to attain a two- or four-year college degree or complete two years of military service, after which they would be able to apply for citizenship.

A group of about 50 students sat on the Faunce House steps behind the speakers. They held signs with phrases such as “Immigrant rights are human rights” and “We are ALL immigrants.”

“By law, I am illegal,” Steve ’12 told the crowd. “Driver’s licenses and jobs have always been impossibilities.”

Steve, who declined to give his last name, came to this country at the age of one, he said. When he was a child, his mother told him that they did not have Permanent Resident Cards, or green cards.

When Steve was applying for college, he faced a challenge because applications asked for a social security number, something he did not have.

“I learned and mastered the English language,” he said. “I immersed myself in the American culture.”

Steve said that he fears what will happen to him after he graduates from Brown and has to try to get a job.

Christian ’11, another undocumented student who declined to give his last name, echoed Steve’s remarks. “I can’t help but feel sad about my uncertain future,” he said.

He also said that he and others like him came to this country as a result of their parents’ choice. “By no fault of my own, I am being denied basic human rights,” he said.

Christian said that he wants to be able to live a productive life. “I want to work for this country,” he said.

Simmons came to the rally to express her support for the DREAM Act. “The passage of this bill would provide access to higher education for thousands of students,” she said.

“We have to lift our voices, we have to make them heard,” she said. She added that the act’s supporters “cannot afford to be discouraged.”

Students seemed to appreciate Simmons’ support for this issue. “It’s really helpful that she’s taking a public role in this,” said Lucy Boltz ‘12.5, a BIRC member and one of the event organizers.

At the end of the rally, Simmons and more than a dozen faculty members signed a letter that BIRC members are sending to Rhode Island’s two senators. The DREAM Act “has the power to strengthen our country in ways both measurable and immeasurable,” the letter reads.

“I think it is important to organize to gather support for a piece of legislation that will open opportunity to a group of young people who have no way of fulfilling their dreams without the opportunity to gain a path to citizenship,” said Professor of Sociology Jose Itzigsohn, who attended the event and signed the letter.

“The kids have grown here, they are part of our society,” said Professor of Education Cynthia Garcia Coll, also a signatory to the letter. “They work, and they go against any obstacle.”

Before and after the event, several BIRC members were stationed at a table in the lobby of J. Walter Wilson, informing students about the DREAM Act and urging them to call key senators in support of the bill, said Alejo Stark ’12, one of the students staffing the table.

Christian told The Herald the event was conceived several days before Thanksgiving break. Because of the upcoming vote, groups across the country have been organizing events in support of the bill. “We want to do our own part here in Rhode Island,” he said.

“I thought it was amazing,” said VyVy Trinh ’11, a BIRC member. “It’s really cool to see people from all backgrounds out here.”

Juan Martinez-Hill ’12, a BIRC member who attended the event, said that he thinks the DREAM Act needs to be passed as soon as possible, but that it is just a first step in more comprehensive immigration legislation.

BIRC has done previous work in support of the DREAM Act. In September, they organized a similar rally in support of the bill, The Herald reported.