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PHOTOS: UMD Students Rally for DREAM Act

College students called upon to support bill which would grant in-state tuition to children of undocumented immigrants.

Francisco Catagena does not have too many memories about his native El Salvador. It's understandable. He came to America at the age of 10 with his father, mother and two younger siblings. 

Cartagena's father and mother were both college-educated government employees in El Salvador. His father was a ranking official in the state prison system. But Cartagena said that some reforms his father was trying to implement in the gang-ridden prison system were not too popular with some. As a result, his family began to receive death threats. 

Fearing for their safety, Cartagena's parents at first explored immigrating to America legally, but the costs were prohibitive, upwards of $10,000, and the process was expected to be a long one.

"We had our lives in danger," said Cartagena. "We needed to leave the country as soon as possible."

So, the family obtained visas and set off for the United States, telling their children that they were headed to Disneyland for a vacation. 

"I just kind of rolled with it," said Cartagena. "I was 10, a trip to Disneyland? Awesome."

But instead, the family settled into life in the United States, overstayed their Visa's and became undocumented immigrants. 

Cartagena said that, from 10 on, he was raised as an American. He graduated from Gaithersburg High School in 2009, but when it came time for him to a choose a college, Cartagena learned that he likely could not afford to attend a Maryland public university because he was undocumented. Lacking the proper immigration documents, Cartagena would have to pay higher out-of-state tuition in order to further his education. 

His story is not so unusual, said Cartagena during a rally for the Maryland DREAM Act at the University of Maryland yesterday. Standing before a crowd of roughly 250 students outside of the Stamp Student Union, Cartagena urged the assembled to vote for the DREAM Act, which comes before Maryland voters in a referendum question during next month's general election. 

The DREAM Act would allow the children brought into the country illegally by their parents to attend Maryland public colleges and universities. But there are some caveats. Students must have attended a Maryland high school for three years, received their diploma, and pay state taxes in order to qualify. 

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), speaking at the rally, said that the DREAM act is a matter of fairness. To those who oppose the bill, Cardin has one question for them. 

"Why? Why do they want to deny innocent children the opportunity to get an education?" said Cardin in an interview after the rally. "It will not only help them, it will help their community. Why do you want America to not be able to take advantage of a trained workforce that can help preserve and create jobs and make America competitive for the future?"

Shaka Zulu October 31, 2012 at 05:16 PM
I have never heard this said as plain or as well. Class war at its best. The folks who are getting the free stuff, don't like the folks who are paying for the free stuff, because the folks who are paying for the free stuff, can no longer afford to pay for both the free stuff and their own stuff. And, The folks who are paying for the free stuff, want the free stuff to stop and the folks who are getting the free stuff, want even more free stuff on top of the free stuff they are already getting! Now... The people who are forcing the people who Pay for the free stuff, have told the people who are RECEIVING the free stuff, that the people who are PAYING for the free stuff, are being mean, prejudiced, and racist. So... the people who are GETTING the free stuff, have been convinced they need to hate the people who are paying for the free stuff, by the people who are forcing some people to pay for their free stuff, and giving them the free stuff in the first place. We have let the free stuff giving go on for so long that there are now more people getting free stuff than paying for the free stuff.

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