Over the last few days it’s become nearly impossible to flip on the TV or read the newspaper without mention of the state of Arizona and their Governor, Jan Lewis. April 23, 2010 was a controversial day in Arizona as Governor Lewis signed the Arizona Senate Bill 1070 (SB 1070) into law, making it a crime for illegal aliens to be in the country without the official registration documents required by federal law. Arizona police will be required to check a person’s immigration status if it is suspected that they are in the country illegally, and the state – as well as the rest of the country – is in an uproar. What does SB 1070 mean for college students in Arizona and the rest of the United States?
Supporters of the bill argue that it simply enforces federal laws already in place, but Robert Shelton, President of the University of Arizona, retaliates by explaining that his school is already losing students and potential students over the passing of SB 1070.
In an April 29th memorandum issued to the University of Arizona community, President Shelton wrote:
I cannot state more firmly that the health and safety of our international students, faculty and professional staff are priorities of the highest order for us, and we are going to do everything possible to help each of them understand the law and its impact. We intend to put in place whatever procedures are necessary to ensure their safety and free movement on campus and in our community.
We have already begun to feel an impact from SB1070. The families of a number of out-of-state students (to date all of them honors students) have told us that they are changing their plans and will be sending their children to universities in other states. This should sadden anyone who cares about attracting the best and brightest students to Arizona.
The University of Arizona is not alone in their fears.
It was also reported that 40 students from Tucson High Magnet School walked off campus to protest the bill on Tuesday, April 27th, and in Phoenix, nine college students were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct after chaining themselves to the doors of the Old Capitol.
While Arizona residents and other protesters across the country are arguing that SB 1070 will cause problems for illegal immigrants who wish to attend college in the United States, the truth is that the problems have been here all along.
Financial aid is usually not available for illegal immigrants because in order to apply for federal aid, you must be a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen. Applying for federal financial aid also requires your social security number, which undocumented students do not have. Federal funds will not be given to students without proper documentation.
An alternative is for undocumented residents to attend college in the United States yet pay out-of-state tuition. This is typically not a reasonable goal, as the costs are much higher. Current federal law prohibits illegal aliens from receiving in-state tuition rates at public institutions of higher education.
This may change if the DREAM Act passes.
The DREAM Act, which stands for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, is a proposed federal legislation in the United States Senate and House of Representatives. The bill would allow certain undocumented students who meet various requirements and graduated from US high schools the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency in order to attend college.
According to the 2009 version of the bill, The DREAM Act requirements are as follows:
To be honest, I never paid much attention to the issues about undocumented students wanting to attend college in the United States until the Arizona bill passed last week. I’m sure that the issue will be in the news even more in the weeks to come, but the sad thing is that people will be angry no matter which conclusions are reached.
It’s easy to see the point of those who argue that young people who are illegally in the United States were brought here by their parents without a choice in the matter. Many are good students and outstanding “citizens” (no pun intended) of their communities. Should they be given the opportunity to take advantage of the American dream of attending college along with their peers who are legal American citizens, or should federal funds be reserved for those who are in this country legally?
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Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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