Undocumented Students Struggle Toward College

For the ones who do decide to go, many of them talk about living on campus like a "hobo." It's not unusual to hear them talking about scrimping for food and hiding out in library stacks as a place to sleep.

One undocumented student called Bridgette had straight As through high school, got accepted to Stanford and saved money from two years of babysitting. Two years paid for one semester.

In his first semester, Victor experienced similar financial pressure. After the thrill of getting the fat acceptance envelope, he found himself on campus on his first day, homeless. He crashed on a friend's couch. He would go to university events and hoard free event food for later. He kept going until he got sick and hospitalized from the pressure of college life. Victor had to drop out to go to community college for a few semesters. He eventually got a private scholarship that allowed him to go back to Berkeley.

Push for Change on Campuses

The chancellor at UC-Berkeley, Robert Birgeneau, wants these rules changed.

"I am a very strong believer that people should obey the law," says Birgeneau. "These people were brought here by their parents. Many of them don't even know they were here illegally. So we need to provide them with a pathway to make sure that they are obeying the law."

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois wants to help give undocumented students that pathway, with the Dream Act. The Development, Relief, and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act was originally introduced in Senate in 2001. It allows undocumented students to attend college and, with graduation, to become eligible for green cards. The act has had a tumultuous history in Congress, falling short of passage several times since 2001. On its most recent re-introduction, in 2007, it fell short by eight votes.

But last week Durbin's office once again reintroduced the act to Congress.

Passage of the act would make the dreams of students like Victor a reality. But opponents say the Dream Act would entice many more illegal immigrants to cross the border.

"What we are talking about is a huge amnesty plan, because that's what it's all about, it's about giving those people amnesty, because they are here illegally, and we're going to forget about that and we're going to subsidize that activity," says congressman Tom Tancredo.

"When you do that you have to also realize you're talking about amnesty for literally hundreds of thousands, literally millions of people. Because they way our system works, once a person is here and gets amnesty or gets a green card or obtains citizenship, they can then apply for and obtain the same thing for all members of not just their immediate family, but of their extended family."

Tancredo goes on to say that rewarding illegals with college degrees is in a way punishing those who worked hard to come across the border legally. Other opponents of the Dream Act say that it will severely strain an already overextended U.S. education system.

But the chancellor at UC-Berkeley says the country cannot afford to waste talent.

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