Last week, when college students invested in the Dream Act gathered around the country to anxiously watch the results of voting in the House and Senate, one of those on the edge of his seat was Arthur Mkoyan. The Armenian-American former high school valedictorian from Fresno made national headlines two summers ago when, as he prepared to graduate, he and his parents were arrested by immigration authorities. A deportation date was set for shortly after his graduation.
In June 2008, Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced a private bill that granted them a temporary reprieve. Mkoyan is now 20 and in college. But his immigration status remains in limbo, since private bills rarely succeed. The family arrived on temporary visas when he was four years old. Mkoyan's father, a government worker in his native country, felt threatened after exposing corruption where he worked, and they applied for asylum. But the application was denied several years ago. Without further intervention, Mkoyan and his parents could again find themselves in deportation proceedings in the future.
I caught up with him by phone last week before the House vote. "I’m just waiting for the Dream Act to be voted on, and we’ll see what happens afterward," he said.
M-A: What’s happened since your deportation was suspended?
Mkoyan: I’m studying chemistry at UC Davis. We were going to be deported, but...I’m okay right now. We’re waiting for the Dream Act to be vote on, and if that passes, then I could get citizenship. It’s a temporary legal status. I think it runs out in March of next year.
M-A: What are your plans for after college?
Mkoyan: After I graduate, I’m not really sure yet. I’m hoping to go to graduate school and see where I can go from there.
It all really kind of sucks. They have been at this (the Dream Act) for 14 or 15 years, and it is the biggest hassle to get this over with. It’s the only thing I have to look forward to.
M-A: You’ve told me what you’d like to do after graduation, and that you’re waiting for the Dream Act to pass. But if it doesn’t, then what?
Mkoyan: If not? That’s a good question.
M-A: How has this experience in the last couple of years affected the rest of your family?
Mkoyan: I have a little brother, but he’s a citizen. It would have been me and my parents (being deported). The private bill may be reintroduced, but there is no guarantee. I still have another year after this year. I should have enough time to finish school.
It really didn’t change anything. Once the bill was introduced, we just kept going on with our lives.
M-A: Have you connected with other students at UC Davis who are in your situation, and are you getting together with other students to see how the vote goes?
Mkoyan: I just keep track of what’s going on online. I’m checking on the status (of the bill). I haven’t connected with other students that are on the same boat, there’s not so much activism on campus. There are not a lot of people like me here.
M-A: Are you optimistic?
Mkoyan: Yes, I’m optimistic. I hear good things.