The land of freedom and opportunity is turning into a dead end for Hispanic students who graduate high school, but lack a pathway to continue for a higher education. I’m mentioning Hispanic as this race is the only that fits the “illegal” profile already created by unscrupulous politicians and ignorant civilians within the American society, but this post can reach ANY race.
The emotional hurricane over “illegal” immigration is playing a big role in media and politic channels; specially enhancing the fact that most Americans conceive “illegal” immigrants as a “threat” to this country. This phenomenon has been exploited by politicians (who truly lack of arguments to govern) to their own favor. The more gruesome and inhumane anti-immigrant proposals they throw, the better promotion and exposure to media they will receive, using this only fact to measure their political carriers.
These particular groups of people have already closed the acceptance of the DreamAct, a federal proposal that would provide a pathway allowing “illegal” immigrant graduates to become citizens and allow states to offer them in-state tuition, thus achieving their own school education dream.
In 1996, a federal law introduced a rule affecting states requirements for unauthorized immigrants to receive the benefit of in-state tuition rates. States were prohibited from offering this benefit to unauthorized immigrant students unless other U.S. citizens were eligible for the same rate. Since 2001, more than 20 states have introduced bills addressing in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants. Seven states have established new residency standards allowing unauthorized immigrant students to receive in-state tuition under certain conditions. Kansas has been the last one, introducing the house bill 2145 (KOG). A Supreme Court decision in 1982 requires all states to provide free education from Kindergarten to twelfth grade to all students regardless of their legal status in the country. For higher education, students without legal immigrant status continue to be ineligible for federal financial aid (NCSL). The students’ access to higher education has been a subject of controversy by the general public, courts and Congress.
“When you are in school you have a place in society, you are a university or
college student”, “Manuel”, 23, said during an interview at the campus coffee
spot. “When you graduate, you’re just another immigrant again”.
“Manuel” (who asked me that his full name be changed or withheld for fear that he or his family could face federal action) and other students are caught between contradictory U.S. immigration policies.
In the state of Kansas, the bill was signed by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in May 20, 2004. Allowing any student who has attended Kansas high school for three years or more, have graduated or is a GED recipient, to have access to in-state tuition for higher education to any Kansas Public University (KBR). The Kansas Senate approved this bill on May 3 by a 25-15 vote, and the House approved it on May 4 by a 68-54 vote.
The bill reads:
“Kansas Residents tuition is granted to a student who:
- has attended an accredited Kansas high school for three or more years and
- has either graduated from an accredited Kansas high school or has earned a GED issued in Kansas and
- at the time of enrollment is not eligible for resident tuition at any public postsecondary education institution located in another state upon payment of fees and tuition required for residents of such state.
- a. in the case of a person without lawful immigration status: has signed and filed an affidavit with the institution stating that the person or the person’s parents have filed an application to legalize such person’s immigration status, or will file such an application as soon as such person is eligible to do so or
- b. in the case of a person with a legal, nonpermanent immigration status, has filed with the postsecondary educational institution an affidavit stating that such person has filed an application to begin the process for U.S citizenship or will file such application as soon as such person is eligible to do so” (JCCC).
Johnson County Community College complies with this bill. When I approached the Intercultural Center to request information about it, the girls at their front desk looked surprised. They asked me again to explain what I wanted and needed from them. After explaining for a second time my purpose of the requested information, they said that only their supervisor could provide any information. When I asked for an appointment with their supervisor, they said she would be out of the office for some time.
- How many students in the State of Kansas are currently taking advantage of this bill?
- How many students are currently enrolled in JCCC under this bill?
- What is ratio of nationalities, ages, genders?
- How much is it really costing to tax payers these students?
- WHY will these students generate a cost to tax payers, if they are only getting in-state fee rates?
- What are their sources and how they really measure these costs?
Just general statistics might not be answered by the Intercultural Center who is in charged of these enrollments at JCCC. but I wonder if new legislators can provide that, as these are their arguments scaring Kansans.
The immigration debate has started taking center stage in Kansas, where some are concerned that their tax dollars are going toward educating undocumented immigrants. In May 2005, a year after the bill was signed, several groups filed a federal sue; among them, attorney Kris Kobach (Moon) who is now Kansas’ Secretary of State. In the 2008 and 2009 legislatures, some people tried to ban this bill but they couldn’t. Now, a new bill has been introduced in this new 2011 Legislature by a group led by “The White Knight” (my own personal opinion).
Kris Kobach, who served as the chairman of Kansas’ Republican Party until 2009; is well known for his speeches and stance against illegal immigration, and is also a co-writer of the controversial Arizona law SB 1070. He was given a speaking role on the opening day of the 2004 Republican national convention, and used his moments on the podium to call for the U.S. military to be sent to the Mexican border to block illegal immigration (Blumenthal).
Immigration law is a serious political issue in the USA. Both parties have promised a Comprehensive Immigration Reform in return of votes for their candidates, a reform that would give the chance to more than 13 million of irregular residents to fix their status; among them, Kansas students who fall under In-State tuition by KS HB 2145. But both parties have fail fulfilling this promise.
The new KS legislature shouldn’t be only a political show lead by “The white Knight.” It should also reached a moral test for all Americans, starting from the point that for the first time in the history of this country, a person from one of the minorities group has already reached the White House main office. Following by the “Invisibility fact,” it is a fact that unauthorized workers and students go invisible in this society, especially to the government, giving up their own personalities (Bosweel).
This new legislature is now using the same dirty but super accurate strategy used by the Bush administration; injecting fear into Kansans society accusing undocumented students of stopping the “bright” future of their “white” young immaculate sons and daughters. This new legislature is now telling Kansans that this In-State tuition will bring more undocumented people to the state, but they are doing an EXCELLENT job by NOT telling them all the rules, and how NOT ALL undocumented students actually QUALIFIED for this benefit. This new legislature is now brining incertitude, doubt, and suspense back to these millions of young irregular students hoping to become “somebody.” This new legislature is using the dirty strategy to build just another step on their political careers and end the pathway to higher education for these students; a strategy to label these young promises as danger to the “Status Quo.”
Boswell, Christina. “The elusive rights of an invisible popultion”. .” Ethics and International Affair 22.2 (2008): 187(6). Gale Learning. Johnson County Community College, Lib. 23 Oct. 2008 <http://find.gale.com>
Blumenthal, Max. “Backlash on the border.” An anti-immigrant ballot initiative, racist groups, split the GOP, derail Bush’s chances in Arizona. Salon.com http://dir.salon.com/story/news/feature/2004/10/18/arizona_immigration/print.html?pn=3
Carens, Joseph H. “The rights of Irregular migrants.” Ethics and International Affair 22.2 (2008): 163 – 24. Gale Learning. Johnson County Community College, Lib. 23 Oct. 2008 <http:/find.gale.com>
JCCC. Intercultural Center. “HB2145 Admission & Pre-Enrollment Requirements”, 5106-31
KOG – Kansas Office of the Governor, May 20, 2004 www.governor.ks.gov/news/News Release/ 2004/nr-04-0520a.htm
KBR – Kansas Board of Regents, 2004. http://www.kansasregents.org
Moon, Chris. “Illegal Immigrants”. Topeka Capital Journal, May 11, 2005. Court, Page 4B Continued from Page 1B. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4179/is_20050511/
NCSL National conference of State Legislature, October 21, 2008 http://www.ncsl.org/programs/educ/undocimmigrant.htm