Undocumented students expect to face trouble in job market
Aside from tuition, fees and stressing over classes, some UH students said they have other worries because of their immigrant status.
A photography senior, who is undocumented, said he wanted to see changes regarding immigration reform so that undocumented students would be able to find jobs upon graduating from a higher education institution.
"As a student, I would like to have a law that allows students to work after they graduate," he said.
Among the students attending UH, undocumented students cannot gain citizenship despite the amount of time they have resided in the U.S.
In October, Congress voted against the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which would have allowed minors who migrated to the U.S. under 18 years of age to become citizens if two years of education at a university or college were completed.
"I’d like to see the DREAM Act pass through Congress," the photography senior said. "There’s no guarantee that it’ll get passed during my time at the University."
Another UH student, who was a biology senior, said he had legal trouble after being pulled over by a police officer in February 2007. He said he was detained because of a suspended driver’s license resulting from a previous ticket he had received for speeding. When pulled over, he said the officer told him his license was suspended for failure to pay additional charges from the speeding incident.
The biology senior, 26, who immigrated with his family from Bolivia as a child and attended UH in Spring 2007, said he was detained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. a branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security created in 2003.
He said that a drug conviction during his junior year in high school was another factor law enforcement officials considered when he was in custody.
"Nine years before, I had been arrested for marijuana," he said. "Under immigration law, it’s considered to be a conviction at 17 (years of age and I) was tried as an adult with a controlled substance."
As a result of getting pulled over for a suspended license and the legal conflicts that ensued, he said he spent a total of 373 days incarcerated. His parents, he said, were concerned he would be deported.
"They were devastated, I think," he said.
He was released in March after winning his case, although his permanent residency is being reinstated, he said.
"There shouldn’t be discrimination between citizens and non- citizens," he said.
Despite missing a year-and-a-half of school, he said he intends to return to UH in the fall and earn a bachelor’s degree.
The photography senior said his family made its first attempt to migrate to the United States from Mexico when he was six years old, but were denied visas by Immigration and Naturalization Services. Instead, he and his family arrived from Mexico seven years later when he was 13.
He said another reason his family decided to immigrate was because of his younger brother’s medical needs. The medical care in Mexico was not adequate for his brother, which is why his mother convinced the rest of the family to move, he said.
"(There were) no jobs. We were living off of about $20 a week, and my younger brother has cerebral paralysis," he said.
The photography senior said he would be graduating in May, but that he still wants to pursue a career in medicine as well.
"All I want to do is be a doctor and a photographer," he said.
Senators John Cornyn, R-Texas; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; James Inhofe, R-Okla.; and David Vitter, R-La have spoken out against immigrant reform.
"Illegal immigrants are already receiving millions in federal taxpayers’ dollars in Social Security, health care and other welfare programs, but now the DREAM Act wanted American taxpayers to pay for their college tuition as well," Vitter said on his Web site.
An education junior said he was unsure if he would be able to graduate and find employment. He said because he did not have a Social Security number required for a background check teachers must undergo, he was unsure if he would find employment as a math teacher.
The education junior, 21, said he arrived from northern Mexico to the United States when he was four years old. His parents made the decision to move because of low wages and lack of job opportunities in their community.
He said the organization that awarded him a full scholarship to attend UH no longer awards funds to undocumented students.
"I got pretty lucky when graduating," he said.
Like the photography senior, he said he wanted the DREAM Act to pass through Congress so that all undocumented students would have an opportunity to study and work after graduating.
While students said they find searching for jobs difficult, the University does not have any citizenship requirements for prospective students seeking admission, Director of University communications Eric Gerber said.
"There is no requirement that a student have a Social Security number or be a U.S. citizen to be admitted to the University," he said.
While undocumented students cannot obtain federal financial aid, such as the Pell Grant, they can apply for the Texas Application for State Financial Aid. For undocumented students attending UH, an affidavit must be signed to claim in-state tuition, Gerber said.