Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Undocumented Students struggle with a high Education Cost.


The Los Angeles Times published an editorial, in response to the recent state appellate court's decision to proclaim unconstitutional a 2001 law that allows Undocumented immigrants to pay the same college tuition fees as legal residents and U.S. citizens.

The time has arrived to shed light on the invariable challenges and adverse effects a decision like this could possibly have on California's presently strained economy. Denying young talented immigrant students the prospect of an improved financial future, deters our great state from attaining long term financial sustainability. These young people are bright, gifted and eager to advance themselves professionally and become recognized contributors to our state and nation.

We now call out to you to help spread this message; California must continue to produce a strong, skilled and educated work force to help meet future demands. We urge you all to submit a letter to the editor in support of their bold stance made in support of AB 540 students. Please address how a decision like this could have potentially damaging effects on your life personally.

Other ways you can help include:

- Urging your school administrators, professors and community members to submit letters to the editor

- Urging your college campus newspaper to publish an editorial

- Urging your local community paper to publish an editorial

Tuition and Undocumented immigrants

For the last seven years, Undocumented immigrants attending California's public university and community college systems have been eligible for in-state tuition rates. The thinking behind this practice was that, regardless of their parents' actions, children had no choice in crossing the border illegally; academically gifted immigrant students shouldn't be condemned to a permanent underclass.

Last week, however, a state appellate court ruled that California was violating Congress' intention of barring Undocumented immigrants from a benefit reserved for legal residents. The decision sends a class-action lawsuit -- brought by out-of-state students who contend that they have been required to pay higher, nonresident fees while Undocumented immigrants pay in-state tuition -- back to Yolo County Superior Court. It also presages the end of higher-education opportunities for thousands of motivated students.

Congress' intent does seem clear. The Undocumented Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 reads, "An alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a state (or a political subdivision) for any postsecondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit."

California sought to skirt this law by granting in-state tuition to all students who graduated from and attended a California high school for at least three years.

Foes of Undocumented immigration, who argue that generous benefits encourage lawbreakers to come to California, will rejoice at the decision. And we acknowledge the inherent contradiction of providing a public benefit to students whose parents presumably don't pay any income tax to help pay for it.

Nonetheless, we believe that California's law is in the state's best interest. By law, states must provide K-12 education to Undocumented immigrants, and it's counterproductive to then erect roadblocks to further advancement for our best and brightest. Studies show that investing in education for immigrants pays off. Assuming they remain in California, their economic contributions more than make up for the cost of subsidized college tuition within a few years. Forcing them to wallow in permanent poverty, by contrast, is a drain on taxpayers -- as well as being flat-out immoral.

California is one of nine states providing in-state tuition to Undocumented immigrants, and given the absence of leadership from Washington, we don't fault any of them for attempting to address the educational, economic and social needs of the populations within their borders. The real problem is not the states' violation of congressional intent, but Congress' failure to follow the trail blazed by the states.

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