Amnesty doesn’t require college, military service

President Obama’s quasi-amnesty for young illegal immigrants doesn’t require college attendance or military service, according to Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano’s memo. Applicants who came illegally by age 16 and are 30 or younger must pass a background check showing no felonies or multiple misdemeanors. In addition, the applicant must be: “currently in school, has graduated from high school, has obtained a general education development certificate, or is an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the  United States.”  Those who qualify will be able to get two-year work permits renewable indefinitely.

“In school” seems to refer to high school. Would dropouts qualify if they enroll in GED or basic skills classes at a community college?  Do they have to pass their classes?

The military provision is a bit puzzling: Illegal immigrants aren’t eligible to serve in the military. However, a few use fraudulent papers to enlist. The order doesn’t say whether those who qualify for temporary work permits will be allowed to serve in the military. If so, would their service qualify them for citizenship?  I can’t imagine denying citizenship to military veterans.

In May, speaking at the commencement of Miami Dade College‘s commencement ceremonies, President Obama reaffirmed his support for the Dream Act, which provides a path to citizenship for young immigrants who complete two years of college or serve in the military in the six years after qualifying for conditional legal status. The executive order, which doesn’t promise citizenship, sets a much lower bar.

Obama orders ‘Dream’ amnesty

Congress has refused to pass the Dream Act, which would offer a path to citizenship to young illegal immigrants who enroll in college or serve in the military. Today President Obama ordered a quasi-amnesty for young illegal immigrants who’d be protected from deportation and allowed work permits. To qualify, they must have arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16, live in the U.S. for at least five years, be no more than 30 now, have a high school diploma or GED, attend college or serve in the military. Those with criminal records will not be eligible.

If the executive order withstands a legal challenge, the promise of a work permit could motivate more immigrant students to finish high school — or at least earn a GED — and enroll in community college. Apparently, they won’t have to finish a credential.

I predict pressure to waive deportation for young immigrants with minor criminal records and weak academic credentials.

Update:  Obama’s executive order means increased competition for jobs and college places, the Washington Post headlines. The jobs issues will be the biggie.

I don’t know if Obama will gain more Latino votes than he’ll lose in the backlash against adding 800,000 young workers to the above-ground labor force at a time of high unemployment.

Republican pushes STARS instead of DREAM

A Republican alternative to the DREAM Act creates a path to citizenship for children brought illegally to the U.S. — if they complete a bachelor’s degree. But the STARS (Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status) Act, introduced by Florida Rep. David Rivera, doesn’t have broad Republican support.

Women leave workforce for college

While men tend to take whatever work they can find, more women are choosing college over a bad job. Will the ex-Starbucks barista be able to pay back $200,000 in student loans with a masters in strategic communications?

California’s Dream Act promises undocumented students college aid but no path to citizenship.

Brown signs California Dream Act

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed the California Dream Act, which makes illegal immigrants eligible for state financial aid at public universities and community colleges, reports the Los Angeles Times.

However, the governor vetoed a bill that would have allowed state universities to consider applicants’ race, gender and income to ensure diversity.  A state initiative bans college admission preferences based on race and ethnicity.

Brown also vetoed a bill that would have made it harder to start charter schools.

The California Dream Act applies to students who’ve graduated from state high school after attending for at least three years and have affirmed they’re trying to legalize their status. Starting in 2013, they’ll be able to apply for Cal-Grants for low-income students, University of California and California State University grants and community college fee waivers.

“Going to college is a dream that promises intellectual excitement and creative thinking,” Brown said in a statement. “The Dream Act benefits us all by giving top students a chance to improve their lives and the lives of all of us.”

The Dream Act will allow 2,500 additional students to qualify for Cal-Grants  at a cost of $14.5 million, Brown estimates.  That represents 1 percent of the total cost.

The state budget is in the red. More cuts to higher education are likely.  Already, students are having trouble getting into the classes they need, especially at the community college level.

Republicans predict the Dream Act will draw more illegal immigrants to the state. A state initiative to repeal the bill is likely.

California dreaming

California’s Dream Act, which offers state aid to undocumented college students, passed the Legislature on Friday; Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to sign the bill.

High school graduates with three or more years in California could apply for Cal Grants, which pay for tuition, fees, books and living expenses for lower-income students.

Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, introduced the bill and said that it is necessary to ensure that California has an educated workforce in the future, including students who didn’t come to the country by their own choice but excelled in school.

“We will need them for our future, for our position in the global economy,” he said. “We don’t have one student to spare.”

Democrats passed the bill on a party-line vote.

The bill is expected to cost the state up to $40 million per year to fund grants to an estimated 34,000 community college students, 3,600 in the California State University system, and as many as 642 in the University of California system.

Once students earn degrees, they’ll be unable to work legally in the state, critics said. The federal Dream Act, which includes a path to citizenship through college attendance or military service, has failed repeatedly.

‘Dream Team’ aids undocumented students

Erick Velazquillo came to the U.S. from Mexico at the age of 2. Now studying nutrition at a North Carolina community college, the 22-year-old hopes a “Dream Team” of young immigrants will help him avoid deportation.

In a Senate hearing on the DREAM Act, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the administration would not issue a blanket amnesty to DREAM-eligible students.  However, she said “it really doesn’t make sense” to deport college students who’d be allowed to stay if the bill passes. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will focus its limited resources on immigrants who pose a threat to public safety, she said.

Dream Act deferred

Community college leaders were hoping the Dream Act would motivate immigrant students to enroll in college as a path to legalization. The bill died in the lame-duck session and there’s little hope to revive it in 2011.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  As more students seek affordable education and job training at community colleges, states look for higher education funding cuts in Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and California.

Court upholds California’s DREAM Act

California charges in-state tuition to illegal immigrants who completed at least three years in a California high school. Monday the California Supreme Court rejected a challenge to AB540, known as the state DREAM Act, which benefits an estimated 25,000 California students. Among them is Pedro Ramirez, student body president at Fresno State, reports The Fresno State Collegian.

Ramirez came to California at the age of three with his parents. A high school valedictorian, he tried to join the military but discovered he was undocumented. As an AB 540 student, Ramirez is ineligible for federal and state aid. He turned down pay for the student government job because he’s not allowed to work in the U.S. Ramirez is majoring in agricultural economics and political science. His future is uncertain.

“I’m going to graduate soon,” he said. “What am I going to use my degree for? And in the next few weeks they will be voting on the only hope that I have.”

The lame-duck Congress will debate the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which is unlikely to pass.  The law would create a path to citizenship for undocumented students who graduate from high school and qualify for military service or college.

DREAM Act would help few migrants

The DREAM Act would create a path to legal status for undocumented minors who arrived before the age of 16, if they graduate from high school and complete two years of college or serve in the military within a six-year period. It’s not going to pass before the November elections, though supporters are holding a “DREAM University teach-in” across from the White House.

But if it ever does, only 38 percent of young immigrants are likely to benefit, predicts a study by the Migration Policy Institute.  Most won’t meet the education hurdles, reports Education Week.

Many of the undocumented immigrants who it seems could be beneficiaries of the DREAM Act don’t have a high school education and have such limited English that it would be hard for them to be admitted to college or serve in the military, the researchers in the study conclude. One of the criteria for getting conditional legalization is having graduated from a U.S. high school. The researchers estimate that only about 825,000, or 38 percent, of the 2.1 million potential beneficiaries would eventually attain legal status.

Of course, young students might work harder in school, if they knew academic competence was a path to legalization. But the alternative path — marriage to a citizen or legal resident — may seem easier.