Educating Undocumented Immigrants
Undocumented immigrants only come to the United States to start gangs, deal drugs and steal anything they can get their hands on, right? Wrong! Many of the undocumented immigrants that are in the United States are children of the immigrant parents that brought them here. They are hardworking, dedicated, and eager to learn. Most of them don’t find out that they are undocumented until they are in high school. They want to be educated and want to contribute to the United States’ economy, so that they are not forced to live a life of crime. Why should we turn our backs to those who want to help? Thomas L. Friedman, in his book The World Is Flat, says we need more educated people, and these undocumented students want to learn. We should make it possible for undocumented students to upgrade their education and their knowledge skills by granting them in-state tuition, so that they can help us, the Yakima Valley and the United States, compete against other countries in the new flat world.
We should all be aware of the fact that we can no longer compete with the rest of the world for low-wage jobs thanks to outsourcing and the flat world. Friedman talks about how people need to upgrade their education and upgrade their knowledge skills so that they can occupy one of the new jobs created in the flat world. He also states, “There may be a limit to the number of good factory jobs in the world, but there is no limit to the number of idea-generated jobs in the world”(267). By giving undocumented students access to a higher education, they can now compete with the rest of the world for these idea-generated jobs, making the United States economy stronger and more successful. Friedman also states, “If the flat world is about connecting all the knowledge pools together, we want our knowledge pool to be the biggest”(376). If we educate these undocumented students, then they become a part of our knowledge pool. So the more we educate, the more our pool grows, getting closer and closer to being the biggest.
Currently in the United States there are ten states that are smart enough to pass laws that permit certain undocumented students to in-state tuition. The state of Washington is among these ten states, which means the Yakima Valley is affected by these laws. Those ten states understand that most undocumented immigrants are here to stay, whether or not they have the access to postsecondary education, and whether or not they are undocumented or documented. By providing these immigrants with a basic level of education beyond high school, their contribution to economic growth will increase while reducing their dependence on public and/or community assistance. According to Jennifer Robinson, “Students with a degree are more productive, less likely to need government assistance, and help to maintain a strong state economy”(“In-State Tuition” 4), and according to the National Immigration Law Center, “Each person who attends college and obtains a professional job means one less drain on the social service (and possibly criminal justice) budgets of the state and an asset in terms of payment of taxes and the attraction to the state of high-wage employers seeking well-educated workers”(“Basic Facts” 2). Another point is that the money that undocumented students pay, increases the schools revenues because it represents an income that would other wise not be their.
Yet there are arguments against the laws that grant in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants. They argue that the laws go against the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA). They refer to Section 505 of the IIRIRA which states:
An alien who is not lawfully in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a State…for any postsecondary benefit unless a citizen or nation of the United States is eligible for such a benefit (in no less an amount, duration, and scope) without regard to whether the citizen or national is such a resident. (qtd. in “In-State Tuition” 4)
However, according to Jennifer Robinson “supporters of these laws argue that the IIRIRA…do not prevent or prohibit a state from granting in-state tuition to undocumented students”(“In-State Tuition” 4). It is also stated in her article:
a plain reading of these statutes shows no prohibition of granting lower tuition rates based on a uniformly applied residency or other requirement. The use of the word ‘unless’ in section 505 suggests that states have the power to determine residency for undocumented immigrant students. In plain language, the statute simply conveys that a state cannot give additional consideration to an undocumented student that it would not give to a U.S. citizen student who is not a resident of that state. (qtd. in “In-State Tuition” 4) Their argument is more of a misinterpretation of the IIRIRA, than it is an actual argument.
According to the National Immigration Law Center, “federal law does not prohibit states from providing in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants. Such a prohibition would have been simple to write, but Congress declined to do so”(“Basic Facts” 2). It’s not like they’re just going to hand out in-state tuition to these undocumented immigrants. They must meet certain requirements in order to qualify for in-state tuition. The law requires that the students have to attend a school in the state for at least three years, graduate from high school in the state, and sign an affidavit that they have either applied to legalize their status or will do so as soon as eligible. American students argue that it is unfair to them because they have to pay out-of-state tuition even though they are American citizens. However it is much easier for them to receive in-state tuition because all they have to do is live in the state where their intended college is for a year prior to admission. Undocumented immigrants have to sign an affidavit, giving up their identity as an undocumented immigrant, which could end in deportation.
These laws were not created to take away the rights of American students and citizens. According to the National Immigration Law Center, “These bills are intended to help children of immigrants who were brought to the U.S. by their parents and work hard in school with the hope of going to college but then discover that they face insurmountable obstacles”(“Basic Facts” 1). There are many obstacles that undocumented students face, such as, schools denying them admission. Those that do get admitted have to pay out-of-state tuition. Out-of-state tuition is three or more times as much as in-state tuition. On top of that, these students are not eligible for federal financial aid, so most of them have to get a full time job during their college careers, making it harder for them to focus in school.
In conclusion, undocumented immigrants are here to stay. By granting them in-state tuition, we are giving them the opportunity to upgrade their education and their knowledge skills so that they can help us compete in the new flat world. On top of that, they will contribute to our economy, and create idea-generated jobs since our factory jobs are being outsourced. Some people will argue that it is against the law to grant them in-state tuition, but that is not true. As Friedman states in his book, “If the flat world is about connecting all the knowledge pools together, we want our knowledge pool to be the biggest”(376). In order to do that, we need make it possible for all of our population to join in, including undocumented immigrants.
Friedman, Thomas L. The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century.
New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006.
Robinson, Jennifer. “In-State Tuition for Undocumented Students in Utah.” Policy
Perspectives (2006). 18 Feb. 2007 http://www.imakenews.com/cppa/e_article000537980.cfm?x=b11,0,w
Stewart, Erin and Bulkeley, Deborah. “Students fear repeal of the in-state tuition perk.”
Desert Morning News 29 Jan. 2007. 18 Feb. 2007. http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,655192144,00.html
United States. National Immigration Law Center. Basic Facts about In-State Tuition for
Undocumented Immigrant Students. Apr. 2006. 18 Feb. 2007.