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Immigrant students seek meeting with Brown

Seek more rights for undocumented

During the campaign for Senate, Scott Brown said he was against granting driver’s licenses and in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants. During the campaign for Senate, Scott Brown said he was against granting driver’s licenses and in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants.
By Russell Contreras
Associated Press / April 9, 2010

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A coalition of undocumented immigrant students is seeking a meeting with US Senator Scott Brown, saying they hope to better acquaint him with their issues since the loss of one of their strongest advocates and Brown’s predecessor, the late Edward M. Kennedy.

Representatives for the groups, Harvard Act on a Dream and the Student Immigrant Movement, said yesterday they believe their online petition and letter-writing campaign eventually could lead to a private meeting between them and Brown before immigration overhaul is debated in Congress.

Renata Teodoro, a 22-year-old undocumented student who has lived in the United States for 16 years, said the goal is for Brown, a Republican, to hear out the students and to meet a constituency group that rarely seeks public attention.

“We really want to sit down with him and tell him our story,’’ said Teodoro, a high school graduate who attends college when she can afford the out-of-state tuition. “I hope he realizes [that] this is important and that this is affecting real people.’’

During his campaign in the special election to replace Kennedy, Brown said he was against granting driver’s licenses and in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants.

But immigrant advocates said they are hopeful to see where Brown stood on various overhaul proposals floating around in Congress.

Brown is on a congressional delegation trip in South Asia. His spokeswoman, Gail Gitcho, said he routinely meets with organizations from Massachusetts.

In this case, Gitcho said, Brown’s office has received the meeting request and will ask for further information to study the students’ particular issues.

“Senator Brown has been clear and consistent on his immigration policy since he was a state representative,’’ Gitcho said. “He opposes driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants and in-state tuition breaks, as well other taxpayer-funded programs for those who are in this country illegally.’’

Gitcho said Brown also believes that changes should be made to streamline the process for those who seek citizenship “through the legal and proper channels.’’

That’s a change in tone from Kennedy, who at times took to the Senate floor and pressed for changes as he told stories about undocumented students trying to attend college.

Senator John F. Kerry, a Democrat, also has expressed support for similar immigration changes.

Such proposals, however, have met strong resistance from some residents and state lawmakers from both parties.

Melissa Tran, 21, president of the Harvard Act on a Dream, a group that advocates for undocumented students, said many residents would be surprised to know that some current college students are undocumented because the students have lived here most of their lives and are part of the community.

“Basically they are like any other students I know,’’ said the Milpitas, Calif.-born Tran, whose parents are from Vietnam. “I wouldn’t be able to pick them out at Harvard.’’

Tran said the issue affects not just undocumented students but all residents, because the students will not be “allowed to reach their full potential.’’

It’s unclear how many undocumented students in Massachusetts and other states would benefit from any federal changes. For example, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation estimates that 400 to 600 students might enter Bay State schools as a result of an in-state-tuition bill and that it would probably result in $2.5 million of extra revenue.

Currently, 10 states — California, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin — have such in-state tuition laws for undocumented students.

Advocates estimate that about a dozen or so undocumented students are at Harvard alone.

Still, Teodoro said undocumented students are ready to make their case to Brown, even if it means risking deportation.

“I have no choice but to speak out, because it’s not just about me,’’ said Renata, whose mother, sister, and brother were deported to Brazil three years ago. “I’m not afraid of being afraid.’’

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