Carlos Reyes, 18, hopes to build a professional photography business covering all of Tennessee. An MTSU freshman studying business administration, he’s working three jobs and both of his parents are working two jobs to pay his way through to graduation.
His intelligence, determination and strong work ethic appear to be overcoming all those financial challenges. But he’s caught in the political crossfire over DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama administration’s move to put a temporary hold on the deportation of illegal immigrants.
Reyes was 1 when his border-crossing parents brought him from Mexico as they fled violence, economic hopelessness and government corruption in the hope of a better life for their infant son and themselves. He and some 800,000 other young adults, known as Dreamers, face the possibility of being sent back to their countries of origin after President Trump canceled DACA protections in September.
That program covered children under 16 brought into the country between 2007 and 2012. To remain eligible, DACA beneficiaries must re-apply every two years, pay a substantial fee and submit to a background check showing they have a clear police record.
“I know nothing of my home country,” Reyes told The Rotary Club of McMinnville at its weekly meeting Thursday. “We’d been traveling between Chicago, Kentucky and Tennessee and finally Murfreesboro.”
A member of the Oakland High School wrestling team and the JROTC program, he graduated from the Rutherford County school and enrolled at MTSU. Despite spending most of his young life as a Tennessee resident, he doesn’t qualify under current law for in-state tuition. While other students pay about $2,000 in tuition, he and his family pay close to $6,000.
With broad support from both Republican and Democratic legislators, the Tuition Opportunity Act now making its way through the Tennessee General Assembly would expand the qualifications for in-state tuition to include certain immigrants like Reyes. While that would be a major benefit to financially struggling Dreamers, it would not grant assistance such as the lottery-funded Hope Scholarship, said Leah Hashinger, another speaker Thursday.
A recent NBC public opinion poll showed 86 percent approval for the Dream Act, a broad term referring to proposed legislation granting legal status to DACA recipients, said Hashinger.
These issues will be discussed in a half-hour interview this week on public radio 91.3 WCPI. That program will air Tuesday at 5 p.m., with repeats Wednesday at 5:05 a.m.; Thursday at 1 p.m., and Friday at 1:05 a.m.