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A Step Closer to Citizenship for Dreamers

By Veronica De La Torre | Pulse staff reporter

Dream ActAs of 2013, the DREAM Act is still pending in Congress, but as of June 15, 2012, many illegal immigrants are jumping for joy.

Students living in this country have all types of issues.  While some worry about when the next test is going to be and if they are prepared or not, others--like student immigrants--worry about their legal status.  Most young immigrants living in this country were brought here by their parents and had no choice in the move.

Jhonattan Flores, a graduate of Palo Alto College, came to this country when he was just three years old.

"My mom didn't tell me until I was 11 years old," said Flores. "For eight years, I always thought that I was just like everybody else."

Flores didn't really know what it meant to be undocumented at the time. It was not until he attended middle school that he started to understand his situation more.

Some students who are aware of their status remain hidden and feel like they can't get close to anyone. They feel like they will not be accepted for who they really are if they decide to open up.

"When I got into high school--I don’t know, I was just always afraid of telling people of who I am," said Flores. "One thing that I was also afraid of was to be judged."

Many of these undocumented students feel scared and nervous because they know that they do not have the same rights as others, which makes them feel like they're on their own, but they’re not. As of 2011, the number of undocumented immigrants in this country is up to 11.5 million.

President Obama is a known supporter of the act that has the power to change the lives of these people. It is called "The DREAM Act". The word “DREAM” is an acronym that stands for development, relief and education for alien minors.

This act is still pending in Congress, but President Obama's actions last summer proved that he was trying to create a pathway to citizenship for these illegal immigrants.  On June 15, 2012, President Obama passed an Executive Order called the Deferred Action that will give DREAM Act-eligible people the opportunity to apply for work permits.

"I think the DREAM Act means giving hundreds and thousands of young people who are talented, who have leadership qualities, who are also lurking in the shadows a chance to achieve their potential, and I really hope it gets passed," said PAC professor Mariana Ornelas, who teaches Sociology, Humanities and Mexican-American Studies.

The action will also allow a two-year deferral from deportation.  Under the Deferred Action, certain requirements must be met: being at least 15 years old, not being convicted of a felony, and graduation from high school.

Aside from what President Obama has done to help undocumented students, Palo Alto is providing assistance, as well.  The college provides advising for all students, legal or not, which can help with issues they may have about school or the payment process.

Katherine Beaumont, the director for the Welcoming Advising Center at Palo Alto, said, "Overall admission process is the same. Same program. Same advising."

Undocumented students are not isolated in any way but are encouraged to stop by. Diana Rangel, also of the Welcome Advising Center, shared that students are often scared to come in because they are unaware the information they share is confidential.

Students are encouraged to come in so that they know exactly what forms they need to fill out to obtain the money they need to pay for school. The WAC works closely with the Financial Aid office just in case there are any problems. Many students don’t know there are ways to pay for school.

"Spread the word because a lot of students are not aware," said Rangel.

The Welcome Advising Center is located on the Villaret-side of the Palomino Center. Their hours are Monday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Their phone number is (210) 486-3100.