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Donald Graham, Co-Founder of TheDream.US, Testifies Before Congress in Support of DREAMers

For Immediate Release: March 6, 2019

Contact: Michael Earls at 202-494-8555 and [email protected]


Donald Graham, Co-Founder of TheDream.US, Testifies Before Congress in Support of DREAMers


Washington, DC – Donald Graham, co-founder of TheDream.US, testified today as part of the House Judiciary committee hearing “Protecting Dreamers and TPS Recipients.” TheDream.US is the nation’s largest college access and success program for immigrant youth, having provided scholarships to students with DACA and TPS at more than 75 partner colleges in 15 states and Washington, DC. The organization believes that all young people, regardless of where they were born, should have the opportunity to fulfill their potential, gain an education, and fully participate in the country that they call home.


Below are key excerpts from Donald Graham’s testimony as prepared for delivery:


“Along with my co-founders, Henry Munoz of San Antonio and Carlos Gutierrez of Miami, I helped announce the start of our program five years ago. We now have 3,400 Dreamer students from 35 states in college. Another 380 have graduated. Since Mr. Munoz is a well-known Democrat and Mr. Gutierrez is a former member of President George W. Bush’s cabinet, we started bipartisan. When we announced our program, a statement backing us was signed by many Democrats and also by former Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Governor Jeb Bush, Grover Norquist and Rupert Murdoch.

I should add that I have spent many years helping scholarship programs for US citizen students, in my home town of Washington DC, where I was, for 19 years, chairman of the DC College Access Program.

We three co-founders had met many students who seemed to us perfectly qualified for college but were effectively barred from attending because they were Dreamers. They had come to the country as young children. They had grown up and gone to school here, many believing that they were US citizens like their classmates.

But as seniors watching their classmates apply to colleges, they learned that they were not eligible for Pell grants or federal loans of any kind, or in most states, state grants. As a practical matter, they could not go to college. In some states, they were required to pay out-of-state tuition, and that’s typically three times in-state tuition. In a handful of states, they were barred from all or some state colleges, even if they paid.

…I am as proud of my country as ever, but I fear that while we wait for a broader reform of our nation’s immigration laws, we are being cruel to generations of young undocumented people. Among our 3,400 scholars with DACA and TPS, the average student came to the United States at the age of four. Once they are here, there is no line they can get in, no form they can fill out, no service they can render that can change their status and give them a green card. That is up to the remarkable people of this Congress.

TheDream.US decided to offer scholarships to the lowest-cost universities in states where Dreamers could get in-state tuition: for example, the University of Houston, CUNY, Miami-Dade, the Cal States, or the many excellent state colleges in Texas and Florida.

Our scholarships are small: our scholarship to a four-year college is $8,250 per year. Most of our students carry a full-time course load but also work. We give scholarships to students with TPS as well as DACA.

The supply of outstanding Dreamer students is enormous. We have almost 4,000 students who are either enrolled in college or have graduated. But that number is pitifully small compared to the 700,000 who have DACA. Only the government can afford these students a chance and doing that will benefit our country.

Our students are performing miracles. 88% of all who enrolled are still enrolled or have graduated. Few students have lower family incomes than the Dreamers. In every case I know of, their retention rates far exceed those of their university as a whole.

Mr Chairman, what characterizes the Dreamers I know best is their seemingly impossible motivation.

They are told they have no chance to go to college. It only seems to motivate them more.

In Chicago earlier this year I met a Dreamer whose older sister had pooled earnings with her so the younger sister could go to community college. The earnings weren’t much. She could only afford one course at a time. She worked her way through community college—in 11 years. Our scholarship is now seeing her through to a BA.

The Dreamers work this hard because they want a chance to help themselves, their families and our country. I hope you will give them that chance.

This magnificent bill would afford the Dreamers equal access to higher education. But I am an old man from Washington. I fear this bill may not have a chance to pass both Houses and be signed by the President. I beg the members of both parties to work together as you so often do. Please change the status of Dreamers and TPS holders and please do it this year. It is urgent. Budget hawks among you will be pleased to know that this bill would make money for the United States; the CATO Institute estimates that the 700,000 DACA recipients will pay $92 billion in federal taxes in the next ten years.

Mr. Chairman, I am awed to appear before this committee. Our country lives by the rule of law and most federal law originated here, the work of you and your predecessors. In my lifetime, the civil rights laws and the voting rights act were written here, the work of Republican and Democratic members alike. And so, in the last Congress, did the First Step Act, again a product of Republican and Democratic co-sponsors.

I would beg the members of the committee to work together with your colleagues in both Houses. Please provide as much relief as you can to as many Dreamers as you can. If you can do that, it will be a huge benefit to these worthy young people—and to the country that they and we love so much.”


  • Read through TheDream.US Scholar story-bank, featuring powerful personal reflections from Scholars about their lives, journeys, and future goals here