The College Board is supporting legislation that would offer some undocumented youths a path to citizenship through college or the military.
The association best known for the SAT and AP tests it administers is stepping into the contentious issue for the first time, just as President Obama is signaling that he may encourage lawmakers to overhaul immigration laws this year. The board’s trustees have voted unanimously to support the legislation, known as the Dream Act.
“These are students who have gone through our K-12 system and have achieved in a very high manner,” said James Montoya, a vice president of the College Board.
But Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said the Dream Act allows illegal immigrants to take scholarship opportunities away from native U.S. residents. It’s unfair, he said, to reward those who violated the law to get to this country.
“If you ask any illegal alien why they came to America, the answer, invariably is, ‘Well, I wanted to do better for my family,’ and this gives them precisely what they broke the law to achieve,” Mehlman said.
The bill would allow students who illegally entered the U.S. when they were 15 or younger to apply for conditional legal resident status if they have lived in the country for five or more years and graduated from high school or received a GED. If they attended college or served in the military for two or more years, they could be granted citizenship.
Conditional legal status could make the immigrants eligible for in-state college tuition, depending on local laws, and would allow them to compete for some forms of federal financial assistance. A 2007 UCLA report estimated that 65,000 undocumented students graduate from U.S. high schools every year.
The Senate voted on the Dream Act in 2007, winning a majority but lacking the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster. The measure was then folded into more comprehensive immigration legislation, which died. It was reintroduced in the House and Senate last month.
California is one of 10 states that currently provide in-state tuition to certain undocumented students and other non-residents who attended California high schools.
Times staff writer Gale Holland contributed to this report.