Maria Sanchez is a DREAMer. The 21-year-old Columbus resident is one of hundreds of thousands of young, undocumented immigrants who would be eligible for legal status under the stalled, federal legislation called the DREAM Act. Sanchez is lobbying state lawmakers for tuition equity for undocumented immigrants.
Sanchez was 13 years old when, together with her mother and brothers, she crossed the border from Mexico in the dark of night. "We ran and walked for 14 hours without stopping," Sanchez said.
"It was really hard. My mom said, 'Just think about it. You will be able
to learn English, go to school and I will be able to work and support you,'" she said.
Sanchez has lived in Columbus for seven years and is a graduate of West High School. She hopes to go to college and she dreams of someday becoming a U.S. citizen.
During a panel discussion in Delaware on immigration reform Monday, Sanchez said more young people like herself need to come out of the shadows to fight for immigration reform.
Under the federal governments "deferred action" program, Sanchez was able to obtain a temporary social security number, and a provisional Ohio driver's license.
So far though, a college education has been out of reach for Sanchez because colleges require undocumented immigrants to pay the international student tuition rate. The international rate is nearly three times the rate paid by in-state students.
"Even though I have a social security number, even though I have a license, I still won't be able to pay in-state tuition," Sanchez said. "There is no way that I can actually pay that. My mom is single and has three siblings that she has to take care of."
Sanchez and other immigration activists are working with Ohio lawmakers on a proposal to extend in-state college tuition to undocumented graduates of Ohio high schools. They argue the change would not cost the state anything and would put a college degree within the reach of hundreds of high-achieving undocumented high school graduates.