Gov. Pawlenty unlikely to let Dream Act pass

Students and a local organization keep hopes up for equal education.

Jake Grovum

A battle at the Capitol raged in years past over the Dream Act – a bill that would provide in-state tuition benefits to undocumented immigrants.

Some call the bill a common-sense way to get undocumented immigrants who graduated from Minnesota high schools into college. Others say it’s unfair to give undocumented immigrants tuition breaks.

Despite the debate, the threat of a veto from Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s office was a road block in the bill’s path through the Legislature.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, said that while she “strongly supports” the act, there is little hope the act will become law, because of Pawlenty’s objection and other factors.

“There’s no chance of it passing,” she said. “More money would have to go into it at a time we’re cutting budgets.”

Some legislators remain hopeful it can pass, but not much has changed – at least from Pawlenty’s perspective, his spokesman Brian McClung said.

“We don’t provide in-state tuition for people from Iowa,” he said. “It would not be appropriate to provide in-state tuition to someone in this country illegally.”

Despite the bleak outlook from the Capitol, activists and supporters of the bill have continued the fight.

On Tuesday, the Minnesota Student Association passed a resolution supporting the act, and the Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network held a rally in and around the Capitol last week, backing the bill’s passage.

Political science and Chicano studies senior Kevin Terry, who participated in the rally, said students who have lived in Minnesota most of their lives deserve to pay in-state tuition.

Terry said it’s undeniable that undocumented immigrants who have lived in the state for a while are Minnesota students.

“Some kids have been here since the third grade,” he said.

The way immigrants positively influence the economy is motivation enough for Terry to support the Dream Act.

“They pay taxes and they do very valuable work that’s necessary for the economy to function,” he said. “To deny them an opportunity to better themselves seems absurd.”

The Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network is currently working on informing legislators about the importance of education, not just for immigrants, but for all students.

“This is not about immigration, this is about educational opportunities for all students in Minnesota,” Mariano Espinoza, executive director, said.

He added that immigration services don’t easily provide permanent residency for students.

“Students have been living here for all their lives, it’s unjust to pay out-of-state tuition,” Espinoza said.

The Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network provides a leadership program for high school students where they can meet with state representatives to discuss issues of concern, including the Dream Act, he said.

“The opportunities are very limited, and we’re trying to keep the hope alive,” Espinoza said.