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Hartford—“Dreamers” —children born to adults living in the U.S. without legal permission —  gathered with clergy at the state Capitol Wednesday to call on the legislature to pass a bill that would open a pool of student-generated financial aid to the undocumented students that help pay for it.

This is the fifth year that organizers from CT Students For A Dream have pressed lawmakers to allow undocumented students who have not had access to federal and state financial aid to allow them to have access to a pool of funds to which they contribute—institutional aid. They’ve drafted a petition to encourage support.

New Haven State Rep Juan Candelaria said at Wednesday’s gathering that allowing dreamers access to the aid that they help fund is the right thing to do and this legislative session is the right time to do it.

“When we talk about higher education, it should be a privilege,” he said. “It should be a right. This bill gives every student regardless of immigration status the right to attend college. These are the dollars they pay from their own tuition fees that other students are benefiting from but yet, they don’t have the opportunity.

“We’re not using taxpayers’ dollars,” he added. “These are dollars that the students invest themselves and they should be given the opportunity to reap the benefits.”

Pastor Abraham Hernandez, executive director for the Connecticut Chapter of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said that faith communities see barring undocumented students from receiving institutional aid as a “noticeable flaw that must be corrected.”

“We issue a clarion call to both Democrats and Republicans in the state of Connecticut to pass HB 5031,” he said. “We’re at a time in our history where we have a unique opportunity to exemplify true bipartisanship.”

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