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Mississippi DREAM Act Supporters Join National Effort

By Rhonda Miller | Published 17 May 2012 07:29pm | comments
Alex Ortiz came to the U.S. from Honduras when he was nine years old. He earned a 4.0 GPA in high school and is an economics major at Tougaloo College. He plans to go to law school.

The issue of illegal immigration is highly controversial in Mississippi. But that isn’t stopping some in the state from supporting a national campaign, launched this week, to support the DREAM Act.  MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports one undocumented college student says he wants to give back to the country he considers home.

"And I love this country, more than I love the country in which I was born. I’ve always been a good citizen."

That’s 19-year-old Alex Ortiz,  who was born in Honduras and came the United States when he was nine.

His mother  dreamed of a better life for her and her son.  Ortiz says he’s worked hard toward that dream and earned a 4.0 grade point average in high school. After that,  being undocumented hit hard.

"Getting into college was the toughest challenge in my life."

That’s where the DREAM Act would come in. The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act is proposed federal legislation that would give young people who have been the United States for many years a path to citizenship. That path includes military service or college.  

Ortiz applied to 25 schools and is now a student at Tougaloo College majoring in economics.

Executive Director of the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance Bill Chandler says the DREAM Act would benefit immigrant students who grew up in this country and enrich America with new talent.  He says undocumented students are not always welcome at public universities.

"The private universities, particularly the historically black universities, have been more than welcoming to immigrant students over the years."

Those who oppose the DREAM Act say allowing undocumented students in colleges takes educational spots and financial aid away from American students. They also say it adds a burden for taxpayers and encourages illegal immigration.

Twenty-year-old Sara del Castillo of Ocean Springs is a student at Milsaps College and the co-founder of a campus group called Youth Organizers United.

"As a daughter of an immigrant, I know many immigrant families with children who desire to go to college, but are fearful because they don’t have a social security number. So oftentimes they don’t take the ACT or SAT, which is required for most colleges."

She says undocumented students raised in America have one thing in common with those born in the USA - they have big dreams.

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Alex Ortiz came to the U.S. from Honduras when he was nine years old. He earned a 4.0 GPA in high school and is an economics major at Tougaloo College. He plans to go to law school.


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