Dream Act becomes reality for 800,000 in U.S.

President Obama’s history making Dream Act-like policy to stop deportations of the young undocumented came as a sudden surprise to many. Some see it as a victory as well as the right thing to do for those who came to the U.S. as children with their parents. Others say it is a band-aid solution to a widely broken system. Whether this is a postponement of deportations or the beginning of a fix, debates are expected for the next two years. I first wrote about the Dream Act in 2007 (Daily News), back when it seemed it had no chance of passing. From my story:

NORTHRIDGE — Growing up in Sun Valley, Joselyn Arroyo saw firsthand the heartbreak of trading a bright career for sweat and sacrifice.

It happened to her parents — both professional engineers from Mexico, who were reduced to backbreaking jobs as bakers and housecleaners after they crossed illegally into the United States with her when she was just 3.

And it almost happened to her. Although she earned a bachelor’s degree from California State University, Northridge, the diploma was as good as blank without a Social Security number or U.S. citizenship to go with it.

“I had graduated top of my class,” said Arroyo, 25. “I was voted outstanding senior in my department. But I thought, I can’t do anything with my diploma now. I can either sit and hide at home and mope around or go into a low-paying job or go back to school. Those were my options.”

Arroyo opted to go on to graduate school and recently — finally — received her green card, that golden key that opened the door to a journalism career. Yet each year, thousands of undocumented college students pin their hopes on some form of immigration reform that will allow them to use their skills within the formal economy. Until that day comes, some say, they wait in limbo, often spending more money on schooling and working less in their field of study.

 “It’s like, `Congratulations, you graduated,’ but there is no bridge connecting your degree with a job,” said Maria Rodriguez, youth organizer for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, or CHIRLA.

Rodriguez has been working with colleges and universities since the passage of AB 540, a 2001 law that allows undocumented students who graduate from a California high school to pay in-state tuition at a state college or university.

“A lot of college students say it’s hard to find a job after college, but I say imagine if you’re undocumented,” Rodriguez said. ``There’s hope in those four or five years when they are in college. But at the point of graduation, it’s an abrupt reality.”

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