Upper School Assembly: Make the Road NY

By Amit Ben-Baruch, 7th Grade
On Wednesday, February 8th, the MCS Upper School students, teachers, and parents attended an assembly with two guest speakers who work for immigration rights. The guest speakers, MCS alum David Altschuler ‘96 and Natalia Aristizabal work on behalf of Make the Road New York, the largest participatory immigrant organization in the city, serving 10,000 community members.
Natalia shared her story of her coming to New York from Columbia at age 12 on a visa and not leaving when it expired. When Natalia’s mother married an American man, he gave her citizenship and she gave it to Natalia. Natalia explained that for many immigrants who come to the U.S. as children, it’s not nearly that easy.
She explained that 11 million people don’t have paper work guaranteeing their rights. Young people can live their life up to college being undocumented and not even knowing it, but when a college asks for a social security number on a college application that’s when the struggle really begins. If students are undocumented, that means that they are not eligible for financial aid and this is why many kids drop out during or after high school. 
David and Natalia explained the basic details and history of the federal DREAM Act, which was first introduced in 2001. The DREAM (Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors ) Act, if passed, would enable undocumented young people who have lived in the US for 5 consecutive years, since before they were 15and complete 2 years of college or two years of military service to have an opportunity to become citizens of the United States. In addition to these requirements, students have to have “good moral character.” Natalia explained that because of this and the fear of being deported undocumented immigrants have to live their lives in fear of cops, or even getting caught doing things like jaywalking, something that most Americans do all the time. If undocumented immigrants get caught doing actions like these, they can be deported or lose the opportunity to try and get citizenship forever.
While it has passed in the House of Representatives, the DREAM Act has never received enough votes in the Senate to prevent a filibuster, where the Senate can argue forever instead of passing the bill. The bill has been changed many times since it was first introduced to make it more acceptable to opponents. Some opponents of the bill have introduced a competitor that would only acknowledge the military service component of the original bill, not college.
David and Natalia also gave some inspirational stories about students fighting for the DREAM Act. In 2010 a group of immigrant youth decided to walk in protest Miami, Florida all the way to New York City, this was called the Trail of Dreams. In addition, Make the Road, works with its immigrant community doing community organizing, where they work together to fight for their rights. 
State DREAM Acts, such as the New York DREAM act have been newly introduced to the students as a state dream act as apposed to a federal one. The New York dream act states that if a student gets grades of 80% or higher in school, they can apply for the Tuition Assistance Program that can help children pay for college. Some state DREAM Acts have already passed, and Natalia is hopeful that the New York DREAM Act can pass this year.
 At the end of the assembly, the speakers passed out a petition that the students could sign  to engage in some action of our own in support of the NY State DREAM Act. 

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