Over a dozen student groups organized a demonstration at Smith Plaza Wednesday in an effort to get student signatures in support of the DREAM Act.

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act would grant young, undocumented immigrants the ability to further their education, so long as they have graduated from a U.S. high school and don’t have a criminal record.

The Raza Graduate Students Association, El Centro de la Raza and the Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity were among the groups at the demonstration.

Christopher Ramirez, spokesman for RGSA, said as many as 65,000 U.S. high school graduates are undocumented, and it’s difficult for them to get post-graduation education.

“They have limited opportunities for their future in terms of higher education and getting a job because they cannot legally work in the United States,” Ramirez said. “What the DREAM Act would do is provide a pathway to permanent residency for students that want citizenship.”

The legislation has received criticism from the Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee.

According to ALI-PAC’s Web site, the organization is prepared to fight the bill every step of the way.

“This legislation will harm American students and families while rewarding illegal aliens,” William Gheen, President of ALI-PAC said on the Web site. “It will cost taxpayers billions of dollars and provide another big incentive for people to illegally immigrate to the United States.”

Student Oscar Maldonado said the criticism stems from a misunderstanding.

“People are scared of it because they think that it applies to everyone, every single immigrant, but if you read the document you realize that it is actually very specific,” he said.

Student Julie Merler-Smith said that she is in favor of the DREAM Act thanks to the demonstration at the Plaza.

“I like that the act is supporting kids that have grown up here and are law-abiding and want to make something of themselves, (helping them) to obtain higher education if they desire to, as well as citizenship,” she said.

Maldonado said passing the DREAM Act would improve America’s standing in the rest of the world.

“There are intelligent students here who could be the future doctors, future nurses that are here learning, but once they are done they cannot apply what they have learned in a job,” Maldonado said. “The students walking by are the future.

*Sign the DREAM Act Petition
Front Desk of El Centro de la Raza
Mesa Vista Hall*