Even as a college graduate and tax-paying member of the community, Rosario Lopez is insecure about her future.
Lopez, who moved to the U.S. when she was 13 and graduated from UNC in 2008 with a biology degree, hopes to one day go to law school.
But her goals remain uncertain because she is an undocumented immigrant.
Rosario lost one possible avenue toward becoming a legal citizen when the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act was defeated in the last congressional session.
The bill has been defeated multiple times.
“The DREAM Act would have helped me to have the ability to work in something that I want to work in, to pursue education without worrying that I will be deported,” Lopez, a co-founder of the advocacy group N.C. Dream Team, said.
The DREAM Act would have created a path to legal citizenship for some undocumented immigrants, like Lopez, who came to the U.S. as children and who complete two years of college or military service. Immigrants must also pass a criminal background check among other requirements.
But the act was defeated when a 55-41 vote in favor of the bill failed to break a Senate filibuster on Dec. 18, 2010.
“I think it is disappointing. This is a really smart, comprehensive bill,” said Lee Storrow, who was president of UNC Young Democrats while they were advocating for the bill.
U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., was one of five Democrats who joined Republicans in opposing the bill because shes seeks comprehensive immigration reform.
Storrow said it is unlikely that the DREAM Act or legislation like it will be brought to the floor by the Republican-led Congress in the next two years.
Other groups who opposed the bill are pleased with the outcome.
“It would have been a bad dream for American students,” said Ron Woodard, director of N.C. Listen, which advocated against the bill.
William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration Public Action Committee, said the bill’s passage would have made it easier for undocumented immigrants to attend institutions of higher education, filling spots that otherwise might have gone to legal citizens.
Gheen hopes the bill’s defeat will encourage undocumented immigrants to return to their countries of origin.
“It means that North Carolina college students have another two years without the threat of tens of thousands of them losing college access,” he said.
Though the DREAM Act and similar legislation is not expected to come to a vote during the next congressional session, groups like N.C. Dream Team say they will work to improve community relationships and understanding of immigration- related issues.
“We are good human beings, we are not criminals,” said Lopez.
She said she hopes she and N.C. Dream Team can work to better inform voters in their community in the next two years.
“We have a lot of work to do, especially trying to break these beliefs about undocumented workers.”
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