Trading School, Military for Citizenship

By Jeff Nguyen
|  Tuesday, Nov 30, 2010  |  Updated 6:15 AM PDT
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Trading School or Service for Citizenship

NBCSanDiego

Trading School or Service for Citizenship

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Trading School or Service for Citizenship

Activists rallied in San Marcos and four other freeway overpasses in San Diego County Monday as part of a national effort to raise support for DREAM Act. The legislation would let anyone brought to the United States illegally as children to earn residency if they complete two years in the military or complete two years at a four-year university.

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Senator Harry Reid may introduce the latest version of the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Aliens Minors) Act as soon as Tuesday during the lame duck session of Congress.

The bill has experience a bit of deja vu on Capitol Hill for nearly a decade. Its first version came up in 2001 but got shot down by conservatives. With a shift in power in Congress following the Midterm Elections, democrats are facing a buzzer beater to get it passed.

24 year old graduate student Nidya is waiting for that vote. She's the first college graduate in her family but her achievement hasn't paid off because she's an undocumented immigrant.

She says her family made sacrifices for her to go to school. They spent more than $100,000 on her bachelor's degree from UC Santa Cruz. She's now working on her Master's from San Diego State. She says "never have I asked the government to pay for any of it."

Monday night, immigration activists took part at a rally in San Marcos and four other freeway overpasses in the county. They're part of a national effort to raise support for the DREAM Act. The legislation aims to help undocumented students gain legal residency and eventually citizenship.

Former U.S. Attorney Peter Nunez calls the bill "a back door to legal immigration."

The legislation would let anyone brought to the United States illegally as children earn residency if they complete 2 years in the military or finish 2 years at a 4 year university.

But critics like Nunez says "let them take the benefits they have already derived from the United States back to Mexico, back to Guatemala, back to their home country."

Scholars like Nidya say that amounts to exporting talent, saying "it would be a shame not only for me but for the United States to not have that contribution that I'm so passionately willing to give to the country."

California has a state version of the DREAM Act which may go before the legislature as early as January.
 

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