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WINTER 2010 JOURNAL OF COLLEGE ADMISSION | 13 WWW.NACACNET.ORG were organized by the students and the advocacy organizations they have created on their campuses while others were linked to state or city wide immigrant rights organizations. The United We Dream network registered activities in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Vir- ginia, Washington, Wisconsin. 4 Since only 11 states have passed in-state tuition laws 5 , most of the activities took place in places where these young adults cannot attain college degrees. In most states, their immigration status—and the poverty that such status imposes on them—makes postsecondary education unattainable as they are charged out of state tuition fees regardless of the fact that they have graduated from US high schools. Students and sup- porters continue to fight this situation at the state level by pressing for passage of in-state tuition laws. The cases of Veliz, Lara and Chehade sparked a furry of activity this summer. Their efforts to successfully delay their deportations are part of an increasing movement to generate support for the Dream Act, the federal proposal which would allow some undocumented students to begin the path towards permanent residency. Begin- ning in Summer 2009, when more than 500 converged in DC for a national Dream Act graduation ceremony, students and their allies have organized a number of activities to build support for the this proposal culminating with the national "Back to School Day of Ac- tion." Across 26 states, students organized more than a hundred events including workshops, panels, rallies, forums and petition drives at state and private universities, community colleges and high schools. They involved representatives in press conferences, attended marches, mock graduations, sleep strikes, film screen- ings, speak outs, informational meetings, press conferences, book presentations and participated in open mics. Most of the activities Benita Veliz, Walter Lara and Jorge Alonso Chehade share many things in common. All three are undocumented immigrant students who, through significant efforts, have enrolled and graduated from college. 1 Unfortunately for them, their status has become the target of immigration authorities. In 2009, all three had to launch individual campaigns to fight efforts by Immigra- tions and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to deport them to the countries from which they emigrated as children. 2 Contrary to the media image that all those who are caught are criminals, these youth were detained under questionable tactics which include the now common practice where local police are deputized to enforce immigration law. In all three cases, the students were stopped by immigration while driving. This type of enforcement will inevitably increase the number of deportations. 3 by Alejandra Rincón ¡Sí se puede! Undocumented Immigrants' Struggle for Education and Their Right to Stay 1 Veliz, a Mexican national, double-majored in biology and sociology at St. Mary's University (TX). Lara, born in Argentina, received an associate's degree in computer animation from Miami Dade College (FL) and Chehade, from Peru, graduated from the University of Washington. 2 In all three cases US senators introduced private reprieve bills on their behalf. In the case of Chehade, Representative Jim McDermott's private bill delayed his deportation order (Firm 2009; Thomas 2009c). Lara was granted a deferment of his deportation for one year (Hing 2009, Thomas 2009a, 2009b). In Veliz's case, Representative Charles Gonzalez introduced a private bill on her behalf (Downes 2009). 3 Continuing efforts which began during the Bush presidency, the Obama administration renewed its commitment to the deportation of thousands of immigrants who land in local jails (Mc.Kinley 2009). 4 For a full list of the activities which took place on September 23, 2009 visit House and Senate briefings for Congressional staff about the DREAM Act took place in October to educate staff about the bill. 5 From 2001-2006, 10 states— Texas, California, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Utah, and Washington—passed in-state tuition policies.In 2009, Wisconsin became the 11th state to pass an in-state tuition law. As in other states, students must have lived in the state for three years prior to graduating from high school or receiving a General Equivalency Diploma (GED). Opponents of these laws are constantly seeking to overturn them. In 2007, the Oklahoma legislature passed House Bill 1804, sponsored by Representatives Randy Terrill (House) and James Williamson (Senate), to overturn the gains codified in the 2003 in-state tuition law. Section 11 of HB 1804, titled the "Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act of 2007," limits the existing in-state tuition policy by (1) eliminating the GED diploma as part of the eligibility criteria for in-state tuition benefits; and (2) including a requirement that the student submit a copy of an application filed with the immigration service one year after enrolling in college. This new requirement will further reduce the already negligible number of undocumented students in that state from pursuing a college education. This article was adapted and updated from Rincón, A. 2008. Undocumented Immigrants and Higher Education: Sí se Puede! New York: LFB Scholarly Publishing.
| WINTER 2010 JOURNAL OF COLLEGE ADMISSION 14 WWW.NACACNET.ORG In 2009, a few states were particularly active. Although advocates' efforts in Colorado, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Washington did not yield a full victory for students, the campaigns illustrate the different chal- lenges at the state level. Those obstacles range from lack of financial aid to undocumented students in the states which already permit them to attend college, to inability to get the bill passed after several legislative attempts, to narrow and restrictive policies at the com- munity college level which impede access in states with increasing number of immigrants. In some states, such as Arkansas and Colorado, the in- state tuition law is still elusive after multiple legislative sessions. In Colorado, Senate Bill 170 (2009) died by a close margin when it could not garner enough sup- port from Democrats. This was the same fate encoun- tered by the tuition bill in Arkansas, which was rejected by the Senate in 2009. The bill there had faced oppo- sition from the governor who argued that passing such measure would violate federal law. Other states pro- posed in-state laws, including Connecticut, Missouri, New Jersey, Oregon, and Rhode Island (Wood 2009). In other states, most notably in North Carolina, their community college system has recently changed their policy to allow undocumented students to attend their system albeit paying out-of-state tuition. This change is void. The classification of these students as nonresi- dents, and the cost associated with that, constitutes a de facto ban given their poverty. Even in states which have passed in-state tuition policies, the lack of access to state financial aid continues an ongoing challenge. Indeed, California and Washington have been pushing for a financial aid bill companion to their in-state tuition laws. In California, after passing the legislature three times, the bill has been vetoed by the governor each time. 6 The movement for in-state tuition has involved a multi-prong approach combining individual struggles by undocumented students to fight their deportation orders, continuous efforts to pass equal tuition laws at the state level, changes within institutions of higher education and increasing pressure to pass the federal Dream Act. While the movement has grown in many different states, arguments in favor of the students have remained the same. The nature and usefulness of these arguments should be considered as this popula- tion fights against being demonized and for their basic recognition as human beings. Arguments for In-State Tuition: Effective or Counterproductive? In examining the merits of the various arguments for al- lowing undocumented students to attend college at the same in-state tuition rates as every other high school graduate, it would seem relevant to consider what exactly is at issue. Is the demand for in-state tuition for the undocumented a matter of economics, fiscal policy, social planning, and the like, or is it a demand for equality, equity and civil rights? Looking at it from the perspective of the students, and in light of similar issues through history, it would seem clear that this is a matter of equality and fairness. The key arguments for and against undocumented students' presence in institutions of higher education fall into three broad categories: economics, cultural as- similation and crime deterrence. Versions of all three are frequently used by opponents and by many sup- porters of in-state tuition policies. Below each type of argument is reviewed briefly. Educating Undocumented Students: Who Pays? The defense of and the opposition to in-state tuition policies, and to the federal DREAM Act, have centered predominantly on arguments based on economics. These arguments have been touted mainly by organiza- tions whose focus is lobbying politicians or enlisting the support of the business community. Opponents typi- cally argue that immigrants are a drain on the economy or an additional burden, particularly at the state level. Supporters typically respond in kind, pointing out that, if educated, immigrants do provide additional resourc- es, to the benefit of state and federal treasuries. The use of economic arguments and strategies to bar disenfranchised populations from access to social services and democratic rights has a long history. Dis- criminatory tuition requirements (from K-12 to higher education) that exclude the undocumented bear a striking resemblance to Jim Crow techniques, such as poll taxes and literacy tests, designed to disenfranchise Chicanos and blacks. 7 As in the Jim Crow South, today most states do not explicitly prohibit undocumented students from accessing higher education. Instead, they present immigrants who have recently graduated from high school or earned GED diplomas with the im- possibly high hurdle of paying annual out-of-state or international tuition fees. This constitutes a de facto In other states... their community college system has recently changed their policy to allow undocumented students to attend their system albeit paying out-of- state tuition. This change is void. The classification of these students as nonresidents, and the cost associated with that, constitutes a de facto ban given their poverty. 6 SB 1301 (Cedillo) known as the California Dream Act was vetoed last year. 7 See Hendricks (2004). 8 See Federation for American Immigration Reform (2004b). 9 See Federation for American Immigration Reform (2004a) and Friends of Immigration Law Enforcement (2004). 10 The undocumented pay sales taxes, and their paychecks reflect the mandatory withholding of federal and state payroll taxes, as well as deductions for unemployment insurance, workers' compensa- tion, retirement, disability, and survivor benefits, (Lipman 2006).
WINTER 2010 JOURNAL OF COLLEGE ADMISSION | 15 WWW.NACACNET.ORG ban, since the majority of these students come from impoverished conditions and simply cannot afford the higher fees. Fiscal-economic arguments generally focus on immigrants' positive or negative budgetary impact on the economy. Nativist forces assert that immigrants are a drain on economic resources because they are being educated without the participating institutions receiving enough resources to bear the alleged additional costs. 8 They argue that giving this population access to in-state tuition rates amounts to a special subsidy or discount for immigrants, extends a privilege not available to US citizens while limiting citizens' access to the same resources, and is likely to cost states substantial sums. 9 Here, as in other areas of the overall immigration debate, nativist forces can be counted on to present calculations that simply ignore the fact that immigrants are taxpayers themselves and that their labor adds greatly to employer profits and to government coffers. 10 Proponents of in-state tuition often have simply accepted the terms of the debate as set by anti-immigrant opponents and have responded in kind. As a result, in-state tuition laws frequently have been defended simply as mechanisms that would allow undocumented students to add to the economy by increasing employers' profits and contributing to the overall soundness of state and national budgets. 11 Some pro- ponents point out that allowing these students to attend college and legalizing their status would turn them into "productive citizens" who would repay society's "investment" in them. A related argument calls for lifting state and federal restrictions on tuition fees because these provisions "are merely creating a subclass of citizens who otherwise are fully capable of becoming successful individuals—i.e. skilled pro- fessionals and thus, significant taxpayers." 12 Although well intended, such logic accepts the misrepresentation that millions of working un- documented immigrants—the overwhelming majority of whom lack a college education—are not productive and are a burden on society. Resisting the impulse to respond to anti-immigrant arguments using the same cost-benefits language and framework these groups favor does not mean leaving their many inaccuracies unanswered. It is sig- nificant that in the Plyler ruling 13 , the Supreme Court did more than affirm the importance and applicability of the Fourteenth Amend- ment's equal protection clause to the arena of education. The court also explicitly recognized that undocumented workers are "encour- aged by some to remain here as a source of cheap labor, but never- theless [are] denied the benefits that our society makes available to citizens and lawful residents." 14 Today, that same "cheap labor" ac- counts for billions of dollars in surplus value and millions more in the taxes paid by those exploited women and men who provide it. Ultimately, economic arguments in support of undocumented stu- dents' access to higher education are doomed to fail. They are fun- damentally beside the point. US immigration and economic policy is designed to create and sustain the economic, social, political, and military conditions that drive the immigration flows that underpin the US economy. Immigrants are denied legal status precisely because their caste-like condition as undocumented is what is most profitable for business interests. Likewise, this precarious status makes immi- grants politically and socially useful as scapegoats for ever-growing problems ranging from health care to unemployment. The idea that the economic contributions of college graduates whose degrees have been attained through in-state tuition legislation will be sufficient to persuade government and business interests to support such mea- sures, which contradict the core reasons for the current immigration policy, fails to grasp the hard realities that underlie the whole debate. In-State Tuition and Policies of Cultural Assimilation In addition to economic arguments, some proponents of in-state tuition policies emphasize the importance of assimilation. They note that having grown up in this country, many undocumented students already are culturally assimilated, as measured by their English- language proficiency as well as the abandonment of their national heritage. Providing access to college, these supporters maintain, will facilitate even greater assimilation and adherence to the status quo. From this perspective, in-state tuition laws are a matter of good social policy—a means of preserving "American culture" and "sound values." The form assimilationist arguments take varies with the degree of the proponents' own assimilation and level of participation in mainstream political activities, as well as the type of audience being addressed. For example, in response to accusations that the DREAM Act would confer blanket amnesty, the Senate Judiciary Committee rushed to assure opponents that in reality the act would simply allow some immigrants "who have been acculturated in the United States the privilege of earning the right to remain." 15 Placating nativists' fears that immigrants do not assimilate is a priority for some supporters of undocumented students. 16 Thus, they describe as the most important contribution of the DREAM Act that "it would provide a means for marginalized youth all across the country to assimilate into mainstream American society." 17 Similarly, others, in citing reasons that an in-state tuition law should pass, emphasize the essential "American-ness" of some potential beneficiaries of the bill, noting that the students "speak unaccented English [and] consider themselves Americans." 18 Arguments like these make the mistake of presenting equal access to higher education as a "reward" that is "deserved" by students who demonstrate a high degree of assimilation. 11 Speaking at a May 18, 2007 hearing of the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law, Diana Furchtgott-Roth, senior fel- low, Hudson Institute, supported the DREAM Act by saying that students with college degrees "produce streams of income taxes and Social Security payments to bolster our fiscal position." In Texas, the Harris County tax office estimated that over a lifetime, "a college educated person is likely to earn approximately $620,000 more than a person with only a high school diploma" (Harris County Tax Office, 2000, p. 2). In Illinois, officials estimated that undocumented workers increase their wages by 5 percent for every additional year of college education (Mehta et al., 2003, as cited in Mehta and Ali, 2003). 12 Alfred (2003), p. 618. 13 In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court ruled in 1982 in a case known as Plyler v. Doe that undocumented immigrants have access to a public education. 14 Plyler v. Doe (1982), p. 219. 15 Stevenson (2004), p. 574. 16 Former House Representative Tom Trancredo (CO) summed up this longstanding nativist fear succinctly when speaking to New York Times reporter Kirk Johnson, "'The impact of immigration—legal and illegal—on jobs, schools, health care, the environment, national security, are all very serious problems," he said. 'But more serious than all of them put together is this threat to the culture. I believe we are in a clash of civilizations'" (Johnson, 2007). 17 Stevenson (2004), p. 555.
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