Dream Act supporters hold protest

by Liala Helal

Approximately 120 people protested outside Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s mansion Monday chanting, “1, 2, 3, 4, we don’t wanna mop the floors,” and, “Bring the dream back!”

The group was protesting Pawlenty’s alleged threat to veto the entire higher-education bill unless the Dream Act was removed from it.

The Dream Act would allow undocumented students from Minnesota high schools who have lived in the state for at least three years to pay in-state tuition at Minnesota colleges and universities. Currently, such students are classified as international students, pay out-of-state tuition and are not eligible to receive financial aid.

The protest was organized primarily by Centro Campesino, an organization with the mission of improving the lives of migrant workers and rural Hispanics. They took protestors on a bus tour to several areas in Minnesota throughout the day to show their anger with the governor and ended at his mansion.

Centro Campesino has a partnership with the University’s Chicano studies department.

Many at the protest said they were upset because after months of efforts to bring the Dream Act to legislators, Pawlenty “killed it.”

Brian McClung, Pawlenty’s press secretary, said the concern was that the Dream Act would “probably be illegal” under federal law.

“The 1986 Federal Immigration Act prohibits states from treating noncitizens different from citizens of other states,” he said.

But Sen. Sandra Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, the chief author of the state’s Dream Act, said that is “absolutely not true.”

Pappas said the Dream Act does not benefit noncitizens over citizens because it states the student must have resided in Minnesota for at least three years and graduated from a Minnesota high school.

“It’s a different class of people we’re talking about than what the federal law forbids,” she said.

During the protest, Susana DeLeon, a University alumna and an attorney for Centro Campesino, said if Pawlenty is concerned about being fair to people out of state, he needs to consider that they don’t live in the state or pay Minnesota taxes.

Pappas said nine other states have already passed the Dream Act and “none have been challenged successfully.”

A number of Democrats voted against the higher-education bill because the Dream Act was not included, she said.

Pappas said she is irritated with the governor because in the winter and spring, she spoke to him several times and he did not give any indication that he was going to veto the bill.

“It’s just an anti-immigrant ideology and anti-student in this case,” she said.

But McClung said Pawlenty was never involved in deciding what to put in the higher-education bill.

“In the end, everyone agreed to the final bill as it was,” he said.

Although she voted for the bill as it was, Pappas said she still would have preferred including the Dream Act.

Pappas reintroduced the bill as a stand-alone bill last week.

“These kids have played by the rules, they’ve studied hard, they’ve gotten good grades and they have a right to an education,” Pappas said.

Ray Roybal, a University alumnus and retired teacher from Chicano studies, said the children affected by the bill are bright and will be educated anyway.

“It’s not that they have a problem being educated, it’s that the government has a problem educating them,” he said.

Craig Swan, vice provost for undergraduate education at the University, said the Dream Act could add to the University’s diversity, although it is not the only way to do so.

“I don’t see how it could hurt,” he said.

During the protest, the sprinklers on the governor’s lawn were turned up, and the water extended past the sidewalks, spraying many of the protestors.

“The water doesn’t scare us!” they responded and continued to protest.

University student Marc Nicolo attended the protest wearing a T-shirt with the words, “Fire Bruininks, Save ‘GC.’ “

“It seems like there’s a lot of stuff in Minnesota going on to limit education in all aspects,” he said.