Kansas City Sen. sponsors DREAM Act bill

Too many times a talented high school student is denied a chance at higher education because they are undocumented and lack citizenship in the United States.

That was the motivation for Sen. Jolie Justus (D-Kansas City) to sponsor Senate Bill 331, which creates the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM.

“The DREAM Act says if you are here, if your parents brought you here and you are undocumented but have gone to high school here, you graduated from high school here, or got a GED or something equivalent to a high school diploma, you would be eligible to get instate tuition to attend a university here in Missouri,” Justus said.

Outside Jefferson City, Justus works as a lawyer for a Kansas City firm overseeing free legal work. When she encountered a woman whose family had immigrated from Costa Rica before she was born, and had lived in Missouri her whole life before being deported after their temporary visas had expired, Justus felt inclined to help.

The woman graduated as the valedictorian at her high school and couldn’t afford school on her own without financial aid or other assistance, and was also barred from working because of her immigration status.

“They graduate from high school, they don’t have legal citizenship, they don’t have the ability to work because they’re undocumented, so we’re putting them in a bind where they can’t afford to go to school, they can’t work through school so we’re sort of creating a situation where these qualified, talented, bright kids are not able to pursue their dream and instead we have them idling, sitting around waiting for something to happen,” Justus said.

According to the bill, people would be required to sign an affidavit stating they are trying to obtain legal citizenship. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Progress and Development Committee.

“Immigration over the last four years has become quite a wedge issue in the state of Missouri, as it has across the country,” Justus said. “I hope people see this not as a reward for people who are here illegally, but instead just basically the same thing our grandparents and great grandparents were looking for when they came to the United States – assistance with capturing that American dream and a way to reward people who are here, hardworking and trying to make that dream come true.”