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Arizona Senate Bill 1070: Opening Eyes About Undocumented Students in the US

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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.

University of Arizona President Reacts to 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.

Immigration Reform for Students?

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:

  • Proof of having arrived in the United States before age 16.
  • Proof of residence in the United States for a least five (5) consecutive years since their date of arrival, compliance with Selective Service.
  • Must be between the ages of 12 and 35 at time of bill enactment.
  • Having graduated from an American high school, or obtained a GED.
  • “Good moral character”

Illegal Students: Both Sides of the Coin

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?

We value your opinions on this matter, so please let us know what you think.


Melissa Rhone+

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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Mark over 8 years ago Mark

First, I’d like to say I was appalled with the Mexican’s President to relay his feelings of our country’s state enacted law … especially in light of his government’s response to illegal aliens into his country. What a hypocrite! Since his immigration laws are more sever on aliens into his country I wonder what his reason was for saying what he said to our congress and senate. The only item that came to mind is the fact that our own President Obama does not want to follow through with his responsibility, as our leader, to enforce Federal law on immigration to our country. Our nation is governed on laws not feelings. I leave it to you to determine why President Obama does not follow through with his responsibility and duties to our country! 2nd: We have been a country with a wide mixture of peoples from many countries. This provides us with many ideas and values which provides our country with richness. These peoples are welcomed and they integrate themselves into American’s religion, culture and language. We certainly do not wish to become a divided country in these areas of concern. It is my opinion that the most critical aspect of becoming an American is learning English. It appears to me that the more different languages (without knowing English) exist, the more separate this nation will become. Peoples with different languages will tend to lump into clumps of peoples that only know their one language. This will curtail communications with all peoples of our nation and tend to build barriers to our nation’s goals and desires for its citizens as a whole. We wish to keep our country as a melting pot which means immigration from many other countries not majorly from only one country. 3rd: In the economic side of things without getting technical, monies in our economy travel in a circle. In a very elementary sense, households purchase products and services. Firms produce those products and services. Monies flow from households to firms for purchases. From those firms monies are transferred back to households in terms of wages, rents, and dividends. Now suppose monies are not used for purchasing products and services in USA but are sent to other counties. Basically that means ½ to a trillion dollars are taken out of our economic circle and given to other countries’ economic circle. That means there is less monies that go to USA firms resulting in less products and services needed and thereby less jobs here in our country available for our citizens. The less monies that leak from our economic circle, the better our style of living will stay.

Roger over 8 years ago Roger

It is so obvious that the Arizona law is really a democrat political issue! The Arizona law is far more limited than the existing federal law concerning illegal immigrants. Why doesn't the federal government enforce it's own existing law rather than fight the new Arizona law? Arizona is simply trying to protect it's "legal" citizens, who are being murdered by illegal aliens. Democrats are after the Hispanic vote.....that is clear!

george over 8 years ago george

The Governor of Arizona is Jan Brewer, not Jan Lewis. How can you write an article about sb1070 and expect to have credibility if you don't even know who the Governor of Arizona is?

Melissa A over 8 years ago Melissa A

Let's sit back and ask the question, "what other country in the entire world can you live and benefit illigally?" If an iternational "student" wants to study in the USA, they will get a student visa. If they do not have a student visa, then they are here illegally. It's that simple. My own child goes to school in Europe. She cannot live in Europe with out a student visa. A student visa is VERY easy to get. Many of her friends are LEGAL international students-most from Mexico. The problem we have in Arizona, is that 50% of all illegals come through Arizona. It is a huge drain on our economy and it is a safety issue. Drugs, human smuggling and drop houses are a BIG problem here! If it is not "in your backyard" then it is more difficult to understand. It has NOTHING to do with race-or profiling- but legal or illigal status. BTW... My family immigrated legally! I am of Mexican/Spanish decent! We went through the process. If we can do it, and it must be done in ANY country in the entire world, then why shouldn't everyone be required to enter legally? I do not understand why this is not a no brainer. If you are driving with out a license and insurance, robbing someone, operating a drop house, dealing drugs, etc..that's illegal, Duh! If you are then asked for your documentation while comitting a crime and it is discovered that you are "illigal" WHAT SHOULD THE CONSEQUENCE BE???? How about deportation to San Francisco? The back lash on Arizona for protecting our state from imense crime, drugs and human smuggling and upholding a FEDERAL LAW - is unfair. It's the "not in my backyard mentality" If the problem was a bad as it is in border states through out the country, this would not even be a debate. You can't move to Mexico or any other country in the world illegally- So, what's the issue? Look at what happens in other countries if you want to move there illigally!

Amber over 8 years ago Amber

Seriously, people really need to think about this situation. This is not a new law that Arizona has made up, this is a standing federal law, that has been in affect for a long time. We need to take care of this illegal alien situation. They come here work, collect goverment funds, and then send there money back to mexico, or wherever they may be from. How is this helping our economy our troubled times, its not. I do not care what color you are, or what kind of clothes you wear, what i care about it the fact that they/you are here and your here illegally, taking our jobs and our money. If they/you want to be here then do it legally. As for this so called profiling, what a joke, cause nobody in the U.S has ever been profiled. It happens everyday, to all kinds of people.

Jennifer Sanders over 8 years ago Jennifer Sanders

How can a student be illegal. It is completely incorrect and rather disrepectful to use the term "illegal" to modify anything besides somebody's immigration status. Being a out-of-status non-citizen studying in the US does not make you "illegal student."You can be an illegal immigrant, but an illegal student? an illegal daughter? an illegal woman? Nope. Please correct current and future usage and be aware of the socio-cultural and political implication of the term "illegal"