Dream Act Passes First Hurdle

Posted at: 03/14/2013 9:26 PM
Updated at: 03/14/2013 10:43 PM
By: Steph Crock

(ABC 6 News) -- They've traveled across the country pushing for immigration reform and "The Dream Act." Thursday, dozens of students including a number from our area spent the day at the state capitol sharing personal stories about their dreams to go to college.

Though illegal immigration is a very controversial issue, at Thursday's Senate hearing the Dream Act passed unanimously, moving it forward to the finance committee.

It was a motion that even surprised those behind it. "I thought it was going to be more contentious and I thought it was going in be more partisan so I'm very, very thrilled," said DFL Senator Sandy Pappas. She has been pushing for the Dream Act for years, becoming very emotionally invested. "It's not the American way," she said while tearing up at the hearing.

Right now, undocumented students have to pay out-state tuition to take classes in the state. Some without a Social Security number, can't go at all. "It really was a shock because I thought it was the same for everybody," said Rochester student Luis Sierra.

"We can't push ourselves to the limit that we know we can push ourselves," said Red Wing student Deisy Miranda Rivera.

They say this is their home. For many, it’s all they've ever known. "Simply through no fault of their own their parents brought them here when they were young, when they were kids for many of them," said Sen. Pappas.

The students are taking high school courses in the state, and gearing up for the future.

"I want to go to school for agriculture science, or be a chemist," said Sierra.

"I want to go to college. I want to be a mental therapist or a marine biologist," said Rivera.

The Dream Act would allow certain immigrant youth to pay in-state tuition and receive financial aid.  "I'm so glad it got passed but there's still a lot of work to do," said Austin student Maria Medina.

"It's a first step but it’s a good step," said Sen. Pappas.

"I have hopes and with hopes, we can get his done," said Rivera.

There's definitely a long road ahead. After the Finance Committee, it must be reviewed  by the Office of Higher Education, then the full finance department, and then on to the Senate floor. They also have yet to schedule a hearing in the House.