Updated: 03/15/2013 6:07 AM KSTP.com By: Naomi Pescovitz
It is a polarizing issue nationwide and on Thursday, Minnesota's "Dream Act" took a big step forward, passing the State Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee.
Students, some wearing caps and gowns, packed the committee hearing. They lobbied for what is called the "Prosperity Act."
"Just because I am undocumented, my grade point average means nothing," said 17-year-old Thalia Estrada during testimony.
"It's frustrating to think that my own country that I love so much is making my future so difficult when I know I can do much better," Estrada said.
If enacted, the bill would make undocumented students eligible for state financial aid, in-state tuition, and private scholarships.
There are conditions. Students would have to go to a Minnesota high school for at least three years and graduate. Students would also have to file an affidavit with their college or university saying they will apply to change their immigration status as soon as they are eligible.
"Just like any other student that's been living here in the United States since they were little kids, I believe this is my home. I have so much to contribute to the American society. When I am older I plan to work here, pay my taxes here," said High School Senior Maria Medina.
"Many of us haven't even been able to visit our foreign country for so many years since we were little kids so this is our home to us, this is where we want to stay, where we want to live. We want to make America a greater place," Medina said.
The bill will now go to the Senate Finance Committee before coming back to the Higher Education Committee. The house version of the bill also needs a committee hearing.
"I'm reserving judgment, I think there are still some outstanding questions that need to be answered," said Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake.
"I think there are two different issues. One is do they qualify for resident tuition, the other would be do we give them state grants," Pratt said.