Fulfilling the American Dream for Immigrant Youth


Contact: Priscilla Ring or Laurie Boeder at People For the American Way

Email: [email protected]

Phone Number: 202-467-4999

Promising Students and Service Members Could Earn Citizenship

Across the country, thousands of immigrant students graduating from high school this year face deportation instead of college. No matter how hard they work, no matter what their academic achievements, for these students, the American Dream ends at graduation. There is a ray of hope – federal legislation known as the DREAM Act will allow immigrant students to attend college or serve in the military as a pathway to citizenship.

“This nation has always held out the chance for citizenship to immigrants who are willing to work hard and contribute to society. The DREAM Act can rekindle this hope for thousands of promising young people,” said Ralph G. Neas, president of People For the American Way (see below). “By encouraging higher education and national service, more individuals will have the ability to work toward full citizenship.”

The DREAM Act would grant conditional status to immigrant students who entered the U.S. before age 16, have at least five years residency in the U.S., have good moral character and have graduated high school or earned a GED in the U.S. The Act requires that within six years of obtaining conditional status, students either complete two years of university or community college or serve two years in the U.S. military in order to earn a “green card,” or legal permanent resident status.

Today, national, state and local civil rights groups, students, parents and elected officials will participate in a rally in Washington, D.C. to urge Congress to pass the DREAM Act. After the rally, 300 students plan to deliver 65,000 petitions to the U.S. Department of Education asking President George W. Bush for his support.

Statement of Ralph G. Neas
President, People For the American Way
United We Dream Commencement Day
April 20, 2004

Today, an estimated 50-65,000 undocumented immigrant students graduate from U.S. high schools with no hope of pursuing a higher education. The DREAM Act can rekindle this hope for thousands of promising young people. By encouraging higher education, more immigrant students will have the ability to fully participate in society and help strengthen our communities.

Some of these students are valedictorians, star athletes or leaders among their peers. Many have extraordinary talents and abilities our nation can put to good use. If citizenship were based on merit and accomplishment, they would carry a U.S. passport today.

Yet no matter how hard they work, or what good use they make of their talents, these students and their families have no control over the law. Only Congress can open the door to citizenship for them. The DREAM Act, with its promise of a path to citizenship in exchange for hard work and public service, is a good start.

Most members of Congress share a history of immigrant aspirations with these students. Their parents, grandparents, perhaps their great-great-great grandparents were once strangers to this country. Their strength and determination allowed their children to achieve the American dream.

That immigrant struggle for survival and success is now the struggle of a new generation. Those of us whose immigrant forefathers came before must do our part to help this new generation realize the American Dream. It is, quite literally, the American Way.

The sons and daughters willing to serve this nation and to achieve excellence deserve the same chance to pursue their dreams. On behalf of People For the American Way’s 600,000 members and supporters, please, we urge Congress to support the Dream Act and remove the barriers to success for these students.