Congress Must Act on Comprehensive Immigration Reform and DREAM Act So All Students Have Opportunity to Succeed

LAS VEGAS, NV— By passing comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act, Congress can help ensure that all American high school students—including undocumented immigrants—have the opportunity to pursue college and a career, members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce learned at a field hearing on career and technical education programs today.

“Today’s career and technical education programs, or CTE, are successfully preparing millions of students for lifelong success, bridging the divide between high school and postsecondary education and training,” said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), a senior Democrat on the committee. “The CTE system represents an innovative approach that allows us to get students involved in hands-on learning and training. But we know that ALL students aren’t afforded this opportunity. Many DREAMers participate in CTE programs through our nation’s secondary schools. But unlike their peers, they are unable to fully benefit from the public investment that we make in schools like this one. Without a social security number, a student cannot take advantage of work-based experiential learning, is barred from legal employment, and, in many states, cannot afford to pursue postsecondary education or job training because federal student aid or work-study is unavailable to them.”

Testifying before the committee was Alan Aleman, who graduated from Southeast Career and Technical Academy, a CTE high school in Clark County, Nevada, in 2010. In 2012, he became one of the first undocumented youths in Nevada to apply for Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama administration executive order to delay immigration enforcement for undocumented individuals who meet certain criteria.

“President Obama’s DACA announcement changed my life,” said Aleman. “I was partially given the opportunity to live without fear, get a decent job and finally to obtain something that I saw my friends getting in high school, a driver’s license. On October 17, 2012 I was approved for DACA, and I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. DACA is temporary and not sufficient, I still do not know if I am going to be able to enroll in medical school and DACA does not give me a path to citizenship. We need a common sense approach to fix these problems. DREAMers and families are tired of seeing and listening to unsupportive excuses just to avoid this topic. It is sad to see that many in the House of Representatives say they support DREAMers but yet, they vote against us and that puts DACA at risk over and over again.”

The hearing provided an opportunity for members of Congress to discuss the need to pass an updated version of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, which provides federal funding for CTE programs nationwide. A full reauthorization would ensure that more students are equipped with the skills to succeed in our rapidly evolving 21st century economy.

“While programs like the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act provide a means for state and local leaders to develop programs that encourage successful transitions from secondary skills training to postsecondary skills training to careers for many young people, a substantial number of young people stall at secondary skills training due to their own immigration status or that of their parents,” testified Angela Morrison, a visiting professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas's William S. Boyd School of Law. “By not providing a method for these young people or their parents to regularize their immigration status, the United States is squandering the enormous contributions that these young people could make to the United States.”

Rep. Scott concurred, saying, “President Obama and congressional Democrats are committed to righting these wrongs. Unfortunately, comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act remain stalled in the House. We need bipartisan collaboration to allow all students, including DREAMers, the opportunity to fulfill their potential and we know that CTE is one approach that allows our nation's students to thrive.”

Despite congressional Democrats’ willingness to work on these issues in a bipartisan fashion, the Republican majority in the House of Representatives refuses to take action on comprehensive immigration reform and recently passed bills aiming to undermine DACA.

“Today, I urge my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to open up their hearts and minds, and to demonstrate compassion for the thousands of hard working DREAMers who know America as their home and are determined to contribute to our nation’s economy and workforce,” said Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX), a senior Democrat on the committee.