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Council backs LSA

StudCo hopes to gain Sullivan

Student Council unanimously passed a bill last night in support of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which supports the ambitions of illegal immigrants to attend college and has failed to pass through Congress for the past decade.

The DREAM Act advocates that conditional permanent residency be granted to undocumented students who enter the United States before age 16, live in the country for five consecutive years, graduate from a U.S. high school, are within the 12-35 year age range at the time of the bill's enactment and are of good moral character.

Council's bill came one day after about 40 students from the Latino Student Alliance and other minority student groups participated in a silent march from Scott Stadium to the Rotunda in support of the proposal.

"Just as we've all had a unique experience here, this is something we're trying to give to these [undocumented students]," said College Rep. Ryan Hicks, one of the bill's three sponsors. "There's no law on the books that says they can't be admitted to a higher body like the University of Virginia."

The DREAM Act has already gained the support of other institutions of higher education, including Harvard University and University of California, Los Angeles. Council's bill calls for an endorsement of the Act by President Teresa A. Sullivan and the Board of Visitors.

Engineering Rep. Seth Kaye noted the importance of the act not just to current, but also to future University students.

"I think we also have to keep in mind that this affects kids who aren't at U.Va. yet," Kaye said. "I think that [passage of the DREAM Act] is in our purview of Student Council to improve their quality of life even if they're not here yet."

The legislation underwent an hour of discussion and debate before being called to a vote. Darden Rep. Spencer Boice recommended the bill be suspended to allow for more University-wide input about the subject, but Director of University Relations Dan Morrison disagreed, stressing the importance of getting the bill on Sullivan's desk as soon as possible.

Discussion continued about the bill between members of the Latino Student Alliance who attended the meeting and Council representatives, who presented their points and countered rhetoric that criticized the bill's unconditional support of the DREAM Act. A motion was eventually passed to amend the bill in several areas, most importantly to read that "Student Council supports the DREAM Act in its current form" to reflect that the Council's support was not necessarily guaranteed should the proposal change.

The central opposition to the DREAM Act has traditionally been the perception that taxpayers' money would be used to fund the education of undocumented immigrants who do not pay the full spectrum of taxes that a documented immigrant or a citizen pays.

Athletic Affairs Committee Chair Ben Powell emphasized this idea, asking why the University's admissions office would accept an undocumented student rather than a citizen if both candidates are equally qualified. "Some of these people who are applying for admission have been paying taxes to the U.S. and federal governments for their entire lives," he said.

Vice President for Organizations Evan Shields advocated the passage of the bill on the premise that a person's immigration status should not be the deciding factor in whether they obtain higher education.

"I believe that these students didn't come into this country on their own volition," Shields said. "The DREAM Act allows these students to apply to college."

On the national stage, the act's fate is still uncertain, although President Obama met with Congressional Hispanic Leaders Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Reps. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., yesterday to discuss the act and its national implications.

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