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Vargas, Chahal Cases Prove Need for Dream Act, Say MVLA Administrators

The national spotlight fell on two Mountain View undocumented students this week, raising questions about local immigration enforcement.

He's an award-winning journalist born in the Philippines. She's a prize-winning humanitarian born in India. He's a 2000 graduate of . She's a 2009 graduate of Los Altos High. Both grew up in Mountain View.

In the last two days, the national press has focused on Mountain View and not because Google launched a new product or scientists at NASA Ames made a discovery; but because Pulitzer Prize winner Jose Antonio Vargas and UC Davis pre-med student Mandeep Chahal lived and studied here as undocumented students.

Vargas hid his undocumented status, but decided to announce it today  as part of his new documentary project and non-profit venture "Define American." In contrast, Chahal's undocumented status because today she would have been deported if not for an eleventh hour reprieve.

"They were both incredibly ambitious students in high school, who worked hard, who are very accomplished and have gone on to do outstanding things," said Barry Groves, superintendent of  (MVLA). "It's sad that the DREAM Act failed by a few votes."

Grove made it clear to Mountain View Patch that this was his opinion and not of the district.

"It's not only affecting these [former] high school students but other students who may not be as motivated and this is affecting them everyday," he said. "I'm a supporter of the federal and California DREAM Act."

The DREAM Act, the legislative bill that came close to passage last year, would have helped qualifying undocumented students like Vargas and Chahal get on the path toward citizenship. Now, telling the story of undocumented students has become Vargas' new journalist endeavor, if not obsession.

At a gathering in her home, Susan Sweeley, a mentor to Vargas and president of MVLA Board of Trustees, watched Vargas–as part of his documentary–tell a roomful of people he knew from the community that he was undocumented. Sweeley, who's known about Vargas' situation for awhile, confessed she's now more worried about Vargas.

"I know that it's risky for him to be doing this and I'm worried about him, absolutely," she said. "But he's compelled to advocate for the DREAM Act and he's a perfect example as to why the DREAM Act should be enacted."

"But I'm worried about him personally."

The cases of Vargas and Chahal, two individuals brought illegally to the United States as children, raise questions about the role of school officials, local police departments and federal agencies in the enforcement of immigration law for school-age children.

According to Groves, he has no idea how many undocumented students attend MVHS and LAHS. He added that usually, school staff wouldn't find out until the student's senior year when it came time to apply for colleges and the student couldn't apply for financial aid.

Groves acknowledged, however, that federal law has jurisdiction to enforce immigration laws–even on campus–but that he had never heard of the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agency raid a school campus.

spokeswoman Liz Wylie also stated that she's never heard of ICE going on to a campus.

"I don't think ICE would go to a school because what student carries around immigration papers with them?" she said. "If they go to a home they usually know people living there that are undocumented. But when you go to a school, who would you walk up to?"

Like Groves, Wylie explained that immigration enforcement falls to the federal government. She added, however, that "we don't have a care in the world which students are here illegally. That's not our role in society."

"We just want them to get an education," she said.

Wylie confirmed that if ICE asked for their collaboration, the MVPD would cooperate. "When they do a raid it's based on credible information that they have."

In a request for comment Virginia Kice, western spokeswoman for ICE, stated that "our officers and agents prioritize cases involving individuals who present the most significant threat to public safety."

With the attention upon successful Mountain View graduates and the DREAM Act, Sweeley couldn't help but wonder if perhaps some people would change their mind about immigration reform and kids like Vargas and Chahal.

"I don't know that it's going to change peoples' minds who are already made up," she said. "But I don't see how people couldn't look at Jose and see how he's a perfect example of an American who should have a path towards citizenship."

Pinky Rao June 23, 2011 at 12:53 PM
They can be high achievers in their respective countries of birth. Send them packing already.
ConcernedSingleMom June 23, 2011 at 01:51 PM
With millions of foreign freeloaders and criminals here illegally to exploit U.S. taxpayers, we must enforce our immigration laws if we care anything about our children's futures. Nevada has the highest unemployment rate and the highest percentage of illegal workers in the country http://www.lvrj.com/news/pew-report-nevada-leads-in-number-of-illegal-workers-115030374.html Illegals depress our wages http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZE2tNO3Uvs0 LEGAL, controlled immigration can be beneficial, but illegals are NEVER beneficial to our country http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyTmClBU7nA Billions of U.S. tax dollars is given to illegals every year when they use our emergency rooms as free health clinics, get free educations for their kids and welfare checks for their anchor babies http://articles.latimes.com/2010/sep/05/local/la-me-illegal-welfare-20100906 http://www.judicialwatch.org/blog/2011/apr/most-illegal-immigrant-families-collect-welfare Illegal immigrants are not here to assimilate, but to take over http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYSjFx-Qz4I http://www.snopes.com/politics/quotes/hispanicleaders.asp Illegal immigrants are more likely to commit crimes than U.S. natives. Half of the FBI's most wanted for homicide in America are Mexican citizens. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/24/us-immigration-fraud-idUSTRE71N68920110224 http://www.bing.com/browse?g=fbis_most_wanted&form=msnhed&gt1=36010#toc=0&citizenship_rbid=20,35&wanted_for_rbid=38
JJ June 23, 2011 at 09:03 PM
If the take-away from this story is that you think of Vargas as a "foreign freeloader" than surely you either a) didn't read the article or b) read it, but simply choose to focus on gross generalizations that are flawed in their facts. Where is your link to articles about how illegal immigrants contribute to social security or medicare without even getting benefits in return? To reduce this story to what these two previous comments have is not only myopic, but also drives home the fact that this is a misunderstood act. No one is requesting that criminals be granted citizenship. There are many people here, contributing to our nation in ways most of us never will and yet we deny them the legal right to stay here. Our immigration system is flawed, antiquated and in need of repair. Until major overhauls happen, I would be an even prouder citizen knowing that people like Vargas could apply for legal permanent residence.
Mark Weiss June 28, 2011 at 11:11 PM
I think a parallel case is Philippe Kahn the founder of Borland Computers in Santa Cruz and other companies who was running his start-up for two years after his visa expired but I believe the fact that he had dozens of employees and was generating millions of dollars in revenue helped expedite his status change. America wants the best and brightest. There is only one human race and we've been wandering around in "a drunkard's walk" for at least 300,000 years; it's arbitrary to define so narrowly who is "us" versus "them."
Claudia Cruz (Editor) June 29, 2011 at 08:31 PM
Thanks for the example of Philippe Kahn. I previously wrote an article about H1-B visa holders (ttp://patch.com/A-hkJc) and I was trying to find individuals who remained in the U.S. after their visa expired. Everyone kept telling me that it wouldn't happen, that they--particularly Indians--would always return and get paid just as much in India. I'll read up more on Kahn.
Laurel Brock March 07, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Not only would it be cruel to force students to return to their countries of birth when they have grown up here, it would be stupid and wasteful. I worked at Mountain View High and knew many fine students whom I discovered, usually when we were working on college apps, to be undocumented. That did not subtract one iota from their importance as human beings OR their future usefulness to our country. Jose is just one example of what these kids can accomplish - why send so much potential off to another country? I'm descended from immigrants myself, and so are you (since if you go back far enough, even Native Americans arrived from somewhere else.) We should get over this "I got my share, there's no more left for you" attitude and give these students a path to citizenship.

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