The hundreds of undocumented students attending the University of Texas at Pan American are more fortunate than many others throughout the country. They can pursue an education thanks to the state’s DREAM Act, which allows immigrants brought by their parents to the country as children and meet certain qualifications to attend college paying in-state tuition rates.
Once they graduate, though, those students hit a hard reality. With no state or federal documentation, they can’t get a job.
So President Obama’s announcement last week that an administrative order that would prevent them from being deported, and potentially pave the way for them to obtain work permits, was well-received, to say the least. But confusion surrounding how long the rule will remain in effect, what information will have to be disclosed and what happens if a person is denied work status has left many students struggling with the same question as always: Is it safe to come out?
And at Pan American, 10 miles from the Mexican border, where the futures of hundreds of undocumented students are up in the air, the apprehension isn’t limited to those at risk. "On our campus, the feeling is very palpable because there are so many of these students. When you’ve got 600 of 19,000 students that are [undocumented] and are active, everybody knows. And you live and breathe the DREAM Act,” said Robert S. Nelsen, president of Pan American. “We’ve got a moral obligation to help these kids. They are the best and some of the brightest…. They’ve come to college knowing that it was against all odds. They wanted an education and they want to be productive. This is their home.”
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