On April 17, I got a call around 3 a.m. My friend Melissa said, "It's here! It's here!"
I was half asleep, but I knew exactly what she was talking about. I started up my computer before I even turned on the light in my dorm room.
I had been waiting almost seven years for this moment, and it was finally here.
Minutes before my phone rang, the U.S. Senate officially released the new comprehensive immigration-reform bill, constructed by a bipartisan group known as the Gang of Eight. It's supposed to be the biggest and best immigration reform in recent memory. A version of it is expected to be passed in the near future. I've been told it'll change my life for the better.
I started reading the convoluted 844-page bill at 3:30 a.m., and took notes for two hours, but I did not find what I was looking for. In fact, what I found was utterly disappointing and heartbreaking.
My parents brought me to the United States from Scotland in 2006 as a dependent on their treaty-investor visa, with the hopes of providing me with a better education. I was 12, and now have been in Florida for so long that I have fully assimilated with the American culture.
I support American sports teams, sing the national anthem, refer to America as home and even speak with an American accent.
Knowing the lengths my parents went to in order to provide me with the best opportunities possible, I have never taken my education for granted. In middle school, I was part of the honors program and made all A's. In high school, I took many advanced-placement and International Baccalaureate college courses, again making straight A's, and graduating as salutatorian of the IB program.
These accomplishments helped me gain a full-ride scholarship worth more than $200,000 to attend Rollins College, where I am a sophomore in the honors program with a 3.93 grade-point average.
But my student visa, along with my American dream, is due to expire as soon as I graduate in May 2015, because there are no pathways to permanent residency or citizenship for the thousands of immigrants in my situation.
However, there are immigrants like me, who were brought to this country when they were children, who would be given a path to citizenship through the Dream Act. This act is part of the comprehensive immigration-reform bill proposed by the Senate Gang of Eight.
There is just one difference between myself and those covered by the act that will prevent me from being eligible to stay in the U.S. — I was brought to this country legally.
As the bill is written, only those children brought to the country without documentation will be allowed to stay under the Dream Act upon completing their higher education. Those who are here on legal visas will be faced with deportation back to their home countries, which they may barely remember and most likely do not identify as home.
The Dream Act encourages undocumented immigration. It is a moral imperative that legal immigrants be included in the act. Failing to do so will not only export thousands of talented, educated young minds to competing countries, but it will also set a double standard by punishing those who came to this country legally.
I ask Sen. Marco Rubio to include legal immigrants in the Dream Act, and let immigrants like me stay in our country as hard-working and productive members of American society.
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Rebecca Hamilton, 19, of Land O' Lakes is studying marine biology in the honors program at Rollins College.Copyright © 2015, CT Now