Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 8
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Immigration reform: Protecting the American dream

In June, Alonso Chehade graduated from the University of Washington. Now, Chehade could be deported any day.

According to Associated Press writer Manuel Valdes, Chehade was visiting friends at Western Washington University in Bellingham this March. Driving home early in the morning, he mistakenly headed north on Interstate-5 instead of south, and ended up at the US-Canada border, where he was arrested and ordered to leave the country within 180 days.

A Peruvian national, Chehade arrived in the United States on a temporary visa at the age of 14. He has remained in the country illegally since his visa expired. During that time, he graduated high school, enrolled in the University of Washington, and graduated with a business degree.

Chehade’s predicament is distressingly common. Over 60,000 undocumented students graduate from U.S. high schools each year. However, if undocumented high school grads wish to attend college, they find themselves trapped. Many states do not provide financial aid to undocumented college students, and the threat of deportation is ever-present.

The United States prides itself on the idea of the American dream, by which anyone, regardless of their background, can achieve prosperity through education and hard work. Undocumented students are the quintessential subjects of this dream.

Immigrants: including “illegal” immigrants: come to the United States in hopes of securing a better future for their families, including the possibility of high school and college education for their children.

Undocumented students should not be faulted for their parents’ choice to enter the U.S. illegally; in fact, many come at a young age and have spent more of their lives in the United States than their home countries. Those undocumented students who have dedicated themselves to the American dream should not be forced to leave the United States.

Last Sunday Whitman’s Club Latino, along with Alianza Student Coalition, held a forum on the DREAM Act, which would provide relief for undocumented students. The DREAM Act would provide undocumented high school graduates who arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday with a pathway to legal residency and citizenship.

Eligible students would be required to attend college for two years or serve in the military for the same period of time.

The DREAM Act is particularly relevant here in Walla Walla County. Immigrants and their children make up 30 percent of the Walla Walla School District’s student body. The DREAM Act would help over 300,000 students nationwide achieve their dreams, including many in the Walla Walla Valley.

Alonso Chehade was lucky enough to have his story widely publicized. Representative Jim McDermott and both of Washington state’s senators have urged immigration officials not to deport Chehade. McDermott even introduced a bill into the House of Representatives that would grant Chehade permanent residency.

For every undocumented student like Chehade, there are likely dozens whose names never reach the AP newswires or their elected representatives; these students are forced to abandon their dreams and leave the United States.

As Luis Ortega of the Alianza Student Coalition noted, if we “forget the dreams of our children, we will be dooming our future.” Congress must salvage that future by passing the DREAM Act.

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