Immigration reform ‘in students’ hands’

Approximately 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school each year, but don’t have the opportunity to receive degrees from higher education institutions or pursue their dreams, according to the DREAM Act.

As three young women shared their stories of being treated unfairly in the United States without citizenship, tears emerged and a conversation began on immigration reform at the BRIDGES for a Just Community gathering April 2 in the SU Ballroom.

Leo Calderon, director of Latino Student Affairs, introduced three young women who either currently attend NKU or will be here beginning in fall 2013.

“I find it amazing how some of these students are courageous and putting themselves out there for a needed change,” Calderon said.

“The students, undocumented students in high school, often times they don’t see themselves going to college and the bright students are the ones who really fight to continue their education.”

Jessica Vasquez, who is taking a semester off from NKU, shared her story.

“Coming out of high school I didn’t expect to go to college, but my parents knew I wanted this,” Vasquez said.

“When I met Leo I told him I wanted to come out as an undocumented student,” she said. “I feel free.”

“We need to just pay attention to all of our people here in the United States and make sure that everyone gets a good education,” Calderon said. “The reason people come here or go anywhere in the world is because they are able to find better living conditions.”

Freshman computer science and physics major Diana Coronado, an undocumented student, also shared her story at the BRIDGES gathering. She moved from Texas to Dayton, Ohio at the age of 12.

“Texas is more welcoming because there were more Hispanics in my area, 89 percent Hispanic and 7 [percent] white,” Coronado said. “It was hard to relate to someone in Ohio, because there was only one other undocumented student at my high school.”

Without documentation or a social security number, undocumented students cannot fill out the FAFSA form; however, which means undocumented students are unable to receive financial aid.

“It’s a tough issue, but they’re here and they’re making a living. If they’re here already why not make a path for them to become U.S. citizens? Why not develop a system where they could be more beneficial to our economy?” Calderon said.

Discussion at the gathering suggested that the solution to immigration reform may be political, but president and CEO of BRIDGES Lynette Heard said the power is in the students’ hands. Young adults between ages 18-34 have the most contact with other social groups, according to the most recent progress report in the Greater Cincinnati area.