The MultiCultural Center (MCC) held an open forum yesterday morning in the Julian A. McPhee University Union to promote discussion on the California Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.
Governor Jerry Brown signed the act, which allows undocumented residents to receive state financial aid for college, into law last month. The act received some criticism following its adoption, but this was not evident at the forum.
Approximately 25 individuals attended the event, and though the attendees ranged from students to faculty to staff, nearly all of them spoke in favor of the act.
“We tried to market it widely, but that’s a challenge with kind of late notice or limited time because we wanted to put something together this quarter,” MCC coordinator Joy Harkins said. “It would have been nice to have representation from multiple perspectives.”
Harkins, who moderated the forum, said during the discussion that the MCC primarily contacted individuals of which the center was connected with while advertising the forum. These individuals tended to hold similar views regarding the act, she said.
“That is a good area we could expand in: how do we contact those outside of those we are connected with?” she said. “That’s something I want to look into.”
But for those at the forum, Harkins said it was good to hear from others who were in favor for the act.
“It ended up being a supportive environment for people who needed to know that there were other supporters of the DREAM Act on campus,” she said. “So I think that was okay.”
Economics junior Bryan Cortes, who moved to Mexico when he was 7 years old, came back to the United States to attend college. He attended the event to participate in a debate on the DREAM Act, and said he was not expecting everyone to be in the same mindset.
“It was a very interesting conversation,” Cortes said. “Yet, I felt most of the people here were in support of the DREAM Act, so it didn’t engage in that conversation of more debate-like. But it was a good way to see how other people think and how they view the legislation.”
Cortes was vocal during the discussion, sharing his own perspective as an individual who lived in Mexico for a portion of his life.
During the forum, speakers read works from opponents of the act and discussed these opponents’ assertions that college debt was rising and California taxpayers would be paying for “illegal aliens” to go to college, rather than their own. Cortes said his own experiences disprove these assertions.
“My friends in Mexico say, ‘I don’t want to go to the United States because I want free education, I want to come because I can’t feed myself,’” Cortes said. “If they can’t satisfy the needs of food, water and shelter, it’s irrelevant that they can get cheaper education.”
Aerospace engineering junior Victor Hernandez, a self-declared strong supporter of the movement, said he agreed with Cortes.
“It’s not really free,” he said of the tuition undocumented residents would be paying under the act. “It’s more of an aid to some students. I’m very supportive of that. I know some people who need that.”
Students weren’t the only attendees with positive opinions on the DREAM Act. Modern languages and literatures professor Kevin Fagan said he attended the event because of his own experience as an immigrant from Ireland and because he supports the DREAM Act.
“The bottom line is that it offers an equal opportunity to students who are here who, through no fault of their own, do not have the proper immigration documents but merit help from the state on an equal standing as other students who have completed high school here in the state and to request financial aid to study here,” he said.
Fagan said, as a whole, his department tends to be in favor of the act. During the forum, he argued for the DREAM Act based on what he said was an “academic principle.”
“I don’t think it’s ethical for me to judge a student on if their family broke the law,” Fagan said. “Even if their father is a murderer, I’m not going to grade their test any differently.”
The DREAM Act is scheduled to go into effect January 2013.