Cumberland University leader joins others statewide to urge action on Dreamer’s before year’s end

Jacob Smith • Dec 27, 2017 at 2:49 PM

Jennifer Novo, director of student success at Cumberland University, joined business, faith and government leaders across the state to urge the Tennessee congressional delegation to pass legislation to protect the state’s Dreamers before the end of the year.

“If something isn’t passed, they will no longer be eligible to work,” said Novo. “Their work license and driver’s license will expire, and a lot of them get health insurance through their jobs, so they’ll lose that, too.”

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act was introduced in 2001. In the last 16 years, numerous versions of the Dream Act were introduced, all of which would have provided a pathway to legal status for undocumented youth who came to the U.S. as children.

The current version of the Dream Act, introduced in July, would allow current, former and future undocumented high-school graduates and GED recipients a three-step pathway to U.S. citizenship through college, work or service in the Armed Forces.

Despite bipartisan support for each bill, none have become law. The bill came closest in 2010 when the House passed the bill, and the Senate came five votes short of the 60 votes needed to proceed to vote on the bill.

Now that the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals was rescinded, there is more pressure than ever on Congress to protect the immigrants who came here as children.

Earlier this month, more than 10,000 immigrant youth and their allies marched in Washington D.C. to demand a clean Dream Act before Christmas. According to Novo, this goal was not accomplished, and she is hoping the next deadline will prove more successful.

“March fifth is the deadline now,” said Novo. “The dreamers are very nervous about not being renewed, and getting their DACA papers taken away.”

Novo has been working with FWD.us, a group founded by leaders in the technology community, including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, with the mission to mobilize the tech community to come together as an organized political force. Two of the issues they focus heavily on are America’s immigration system and criminal justice system.

“We’ve really been pushing for the Dream Act,” said Novo. “I’ve been coordinating efforts and talking with students, just trying to get the word out there.”

Novo currently works with the Equal Chance for Education Scholars at Cumberland University. Undocumented students can apply with this program to receive financial aid in place the Free Application for Federal Student Aid used by most students.

“It gives students the chance to go to college if they don’t have citizenship,” said Novo. “We’re big advocates of providing educational opportunities. I think that’s how we will help the future.”

At least 18 states passed laws that provide undocumented students the opportunity to receive in-state tuition. The laws generally require undocumented students to attend a school in the state for a certain number of years and graduate from high school in the state. 

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