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Hopes of Immigrant Students Revitalized

By March 30, 2006No Comments

Downloadable:  English and Korean press statements

November 21, 2005                Contacts:   EunSook Lee, NAKASEC, 323-937-3703
                         Yu Soung Mun, YKASEC, 718-460-5600
                         Kent Chaegu Lee, KRCC, 773-506-9158
                         Dae Joong Yoon, KRC, 323-937-3718

Hopes of Immigrant Students Revitalized
The DREAM Act Introduced in the Senate

[Los Angeles] On November 18, 2005, Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), and Richard Lugar (R-IN), re-introduced the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act (S. 2075).  If passed, the DREAM Act would provide undocumented students a chance to pursue higher education and obtain legal status while allowing states to determine their own rules of residency to open up more opportunities for in-state tuition eligibility.    

The National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) and its affiliates applaud the bill’s re-introduction. “It is estimated that each year, 65,000 undocumented students graduate from U.S. high schools. In the case of the Korean American community, 190,000 or 1 out of 6 are undocumented. No doubt a significant percentage of this group is young people who are facing insurmountable barriers as they seek higher education and employment opportunities,” said Eun Sook Lee, Executive Director of NAKASEC.  “This bill will benefit students like Kannie Yoon, an incredibly gifted artist currently studying at the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago. Determined to see her graduate, Kannie’s parents and her older sister (who has foregone her own dreams of college in order to support her younger sister) are working 60 hours a week at a dry cleaners to pay for her schooling. They do so knowing that upon graduation, she will not be able to work in the field of her study, unless the DREAM Act passes.

Kent Chaegu Lee, executive director of NAKASEC’s Chicago affiliate, the Korean American Resource & Cultural Center explains, “The re-introduction of the DREAM Act is the result of sustained and deep organizing led by youth and supported by their allies such as educators, business leaders, and faith for the past year. Moreover, it has actually been five years since we first waged this struggle and we thank all the co-sponsors for having the courage and determination to continue pushing forward this critical issue.

The DREAM Act’s introduction comes as the debate on immigration reform becomes more heated and divisive, particularly as Congress begins considering more enforcement-only policies as a solution to fixing the nation’s broken immigration system.  “There seems to be a rising anti-immigrant tide in Congress, particularly in the House. The DREAM Act should not fall prey to political interests,” said Yu Soung Mun, executive director of YKASEC-Empowering the Korean American Community in New York City. “The strong bi-partisan nature of the DREAM Act demonstrates that the bill crosses party lines because it is more than an immigration bill. It is about providing fair educational opportunities to all of our nation’s children. We now urge the House to follow suit by introducing a companion bill soon.”

Dae Joong Yoon, executive director of the Korean Resource Center in Los Angeles concluded, “Across the political spectrum, it is widely agreed that the immigration system is flawed and outdated. The challenge for America is to realistically create a workable and fair system that also reflects long cherished values of equality, justice and liberty. The DREAM Act is a positive and meaningful bill in a sea of short-sighted or xenophobic anti-immigrant bills that have recently been introduced. We must now redouble our efforts to ensure its passage during the 109th Congress.”

For the past 10 months, NAKASEC and its affiliates have been actively engaged in ensuring the re-introduction of the DREAM Act through two major actions.  In early 2005, NAKASEC and affiliates organized close to 300 Korean American and Asian American organizations and faith-based groups to endorse the national Statement of Support, which highlights the principles of the DREAM Act. A total of 900 groups nationwide endorsed the statement. During the summer, the We Are Marie Campaign succeeded in stopping the deportation of Marie Gonzales, a 19-year old undocumented student from Jefferson City, Missouri.  

The current bill is very similar to what was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the 108th Congress in 2003. Joining the bill’s lead co-sponsors are the following five Democratic and five Republican co-sponsors: Norm Coleman (R-MN), Larry Craig (R-ID), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Mike DeWine (R-OH), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), John McCain (R-AZ), and Barack Obama (D-IL).  

Profiles of young students who would directly benefit from the bill’s passage are available upon request.