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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Editorial: Undocumented students deserve higher education

Education is a basic human right. Everyone deserves the opportunity to receive a high school diploma, and go on to pursue higher education. The question is how much it should cost, especially depending on what side of the border you’re from.

Earlier this month, the Maryland Legislature passed a bill that would allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has already agreed to sign it.

Shortly afterward, a Colorado House committee rejected a similar measure. It was the fifth time the measure had failed in the Colorado Legislature amid questions of what sort of benefits should be given to undocumented immigrants.

The Colorado bill would have allowed undocumented students to attend Colorado schools and pay in-state tuition, rather than three times that for out-of-state tuition. Democrats argued in support of the bill, claiming that it would bolster the state’s economy by allowing more students to enroll in college, and that being forced to pay out-of-state tuition blocks the path to higher education for students who have already been in the state’s public education system.

Predictably, Republicans argued that such a measure would encourage more illegal immigration.

Maryland’s bill passed with a compromise in the state Senate. To qualify, undocumented students would have to attend three years of Maryland high school. Male students have to sign up for selective service, and students or their parents must prove that income taxes were withheld for three years prior to starting college.

Similarly, Colorado’s bill would have required undocumented students to attend, and graduate, from a Colorado high school for at least three years. They would also still pay more than other in-state students because they would not be eligible for a stipend granted to legal in-state residents.

There are 11 other states that have passed a measure allowing undocumented students to pay in-state tuition, including California, Illinois and Texas. These measures have been challenged in court, but none have been overturned so far.

To be perfectly frank, if Texas can do it, any state can.

“”Are we teaching a new generation that it’s OK not to follow the laws of our country?”” said Republican Colorado Rep. Robert Ramírez in an article by the Associated Press. “”That scares me.””

Spoken like an Arizonan. Other states have rejected similar proposals, and each time, the same question arises: Does this measure somehow contribute to illegal immigration?

For Ramirez, and a noisy subset of Arizona, yes, it does. Opponents of allowing undocumented students to pay in-state tuition, or even attend school at all, imagine that the idea is the equivalent of granting them permission to break the law. To them, it says, “”It’s OK that you jumped the border. No big deal. Here’s a college degree!””

It’s hard to picture, but foreigners probably don’t wake up one morning and think to themselves that, oh, boy, today sure is a fine day to hop the border and invade the United States, one classroom at a time.

Denver’s interim Mayor Guillermo “”Bill”” Vidal, said that, as a Cuban immigrant, he could relate to undocumented students. Vidal asked legislators to support the Colorado bill.

“”I’m here to plead with you when thinking about these kids. It’s important to separate their plight from the debate on illegal immigration,”” Vidal said.

Allowing undocumented students to pay in-state tuition isn’t giving them a free pass to mooch off everyone else without paperwork. The Maryland Senate’s criteria essentially establish residency as much as you can without being entirely legal.

Is there something wrong with that? Maybe. Is it worth barring them from receiving an education, or requiring them to pay far more than they should actually have to for one? No.

The illegal immigration debate asks a lot of hard questions. Education’s not one.

 

— Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat editorial board and written by one of its members. They are Kristina Bui, Ken Contrata, Michelle A. Monroe and Heather Price-Wright. They can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

 

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