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UNG students show support for DREAM Act
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Nick Mitchell, left, and Anthony Paz, right, put their arms around fellow University of North Georgia student Aldo Mendoza following a forum Wednesday at the Gainesville campus supporting DREAM Act legislation in Congress. - photo by Carlos Galarza

Claudia Ramos was one of several dozen students at a University of North Georgia Gainesville campus forum Wednesday who came out in support of immigration legislation being revived in Congress to protect some 800,000 immigrants left in fear of deportation after President Donald Trump rescinded the Obama-era program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

Ramos, 32, came to the United States from Mexico when she was 10. It took her 15 years to become a U.S. citizen.

“I went through the path to citizenship by first becoming a legal resident and then a U.S. citizen,” said Ramos, who has been working as a medical assistant for the past 10 years and is now enrolled in UNG’s nursing program.

Although some students attended the forum for credit offered by their professors, Ramos said she wanted to show her solidarity with people who no longer have DACA — a policy that gave a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation, and work permit, to those who entered the country illegally as minors.

“I came here today because I’m Hispanic,” Ramos said. “The future of so many young people without DACA worries me.”

Congress is revisiting the DREAM Act — short for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act. The bill  first surfaced in 2001, and it was intended to grant legal status to certain undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors and went to school here.

Anthony Paz, 20,  a business major in his junior year at UNG, was one of the event’s organizers. He said it was good timing to hold the event because Trump decided to rescind DACA in September.

“A lot of people don’t even know that this DREAM Act is a good, clean bill that could help a lot of people,” Paz said. “I thought it was important to get that information out there.”

Nick Mitchell, 25, a computer science major, belongs to the student group Diplomats for Diversity, along with Paz.

“On this issue it’s now or never,” Mitchell said. ‘If we don’t get (the DREAM Act) passed before the rescission takes full effect, it’s going to be disastrous for a lot of people.”

Mitchell handed out contact information of members of the Georgia congressional delegation in Washington and urged fellow students to call their elected representatives and ask them to get behind the DREAM Act.

Lana Goitia, president of Students for a Progressive Society, another student organization on campus, presented information during the forum that she researched from the Cato Institute, Pew and other sources.

Goitia told students that the nation could see a $1 trillion benefit over a 10-year period if the country protects DACA beneficiaries and expands the protection to include those undocumented people who were not covered by DACA because of age requirements.

“The biggest takeaway is that there is a major economic impact on the U.S. economy from passing the DREAM Act,” Goitia said.

Mitchell said Goitia will make the same presentation to the Young Democrats of Hall County, and the group hopes to do the same with Hall County Young Republicans.

Aldo Mendoza, 22, an undocumented student at UNG, said the DREAM Act would help students like him. Mendoza said he now pays as much as three times more in tuition because Georgia law does not allow noncitizens to pay lower in-state rates unless they are here legally.

Robert Robinson, director of multicultural student affairs at UNG, said students spearheaded the event.

“The students are the best resource for that,” Robinson said. “They organize events, they pick the topics. We have a peer-to-peer student group — Diplomats for Diversity — that does diversity training from student perspectives to students.”

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