Young Immigrants Turn Dreams into Action

Connecticut Students for a Dream see local victories in campaign for immigrant rights.

Connecticut Students for a Dream brings together young leaders to advocate for immigrant rights. Photo Credit: Ian Christmann

In 2010, as the U.S. Congress took up the Federal DREAM Act, a small group of undocumented students and allies from Connecticut met to discuss what they should do. The proposed legislation would allow them the life-changing opportunity to apply for legal permanent residency. They organized a statewide summit, joined the national advocacy network, United We Dream, and brought their voices to Washington.

Connecticut Students for a Dream (C4D) was born from this advocacy work. Although the DREAM Act was ultimately defeated, C4D has continued its fight to better the lives of immigrants and won legislative victories at the state level.
"After the DREAM Act failed, we did not lose hope," says C4D Lead Organizer Lucas Codognolla. "We said, 'Let's fight locally.'"

That strategy was rewarded this month as the Connecticut House of Representatives passed legislation that opens state financial aid to undocumented immigrants living in the state brought here as children. The aid comes from a pool of funds that all students, including undocumented students, contribute to through their tuition payments.

In a previous legislative victory, C4D successfully advocated to allow undocumented immigrant students pay in-state tuition to public state colleges and universities.

In addition seeing results from its advocacy work, Codognolla said C4D has helped the undocumented population learn how to not be afraid.

"There is power in our stories," Codognolla said.

Connecticut Students for a Dream is a grant recipient of The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, which has a strategic focus on Immigrant Integration that aims to improve the lives of recent immigrants, including those who are undocumented, in Greater New Haven.

Did you know?

Undocumented immigrants in Connecticut paid an estimated $124.7 million in state and local taxes in 2014. Their contribution would rise to $145.3 million if they could receive legal status.

This story is part of the Inspiration Monday story series produced by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.