Texan students go on hunger strike to support DREAM Act passage

The students have not eaten in three weeks.

Students at several universities in Texas are in the third week of a hunger strike to protest against their Republican senator who opposes an act that would help students who are illegal immigrants attend U.S. colleges and universities.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act would provide certain illegal-alien students the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency if they complete two years in the military or at a university.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's office released a statement saying the senator supports giving temporary student visas to so-called “DREAMers," but the DREAM Act is not limited to the young people themselves. Instead, it extends entry to other family members — even amnesty for those illegally in the United States.

Sixteen of the protestors were arrested last week on criminal trespassing charges, and DREAM Act organizers said the strikes are spreading elsewhere. One of those places is Kansas City, Mo., where protests organized by the Kansas/Missouri DREAM Alliance (KSMODA) have been happening throughout the week outside of the Lathrop and Gage Building, which is known for its immigration court.

“The current immigration system is outdated and unjust,” KSMODA member Jessica Piedra said in a posting on the blog Tony’s Kansas City. “We must support the Dream Act so that children and students aren't targeted solely for seeking an education."  

The controversy with the bill lies in the idea that too many undocumented students would be able to take advantage of this program and would get an easy way out. Others say if the bill were to be enacted, those who meet the qualifications would be able to take away jobs from those who were born in the United States.

Hutchinson’s office released a different statement saying the senator supports certain parts of the bill, but cannot vote for it in its present form.

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., made good on his pre-election promise to bring the DREAM Act up for a vote in the lame duck session. The new version is filled with several compromises with the hope of gaining the 60 necessary votes from those, such as Hutchison, who have been opposed to former versions. One of the major differences between this most recent version and the previous ones is the qualifications are much stricter as far as how many and what kinds of undocumented youth will be able to benefit from the bill.

Many advocates hope these changes will be enough to swing the votes of those who are on the fence. The question of whether this bill is going to be passed not only weighs on those at the University of Texas, but on those at MU as well.

Freshman Anthony Martinez said he has witnessed firsthand the struggles and the obstacles illegal immigrants are faced with here in the United States.

“These people, my culture, have the opportunity to evolve though an open-armed structure of legislation,” Martinez said. “Our culture, both noble and recognized, can now be established via productive means if this act is indeed passed.”

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