Phi Beta Cons

Illegal Immigration Meets Higher Education

Inside Higher Ed reports on bipartisan legislation proposed in 2003 that would restore power to the Attorney General of each state to determine the residency status of illegal immigrant children. The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, popularly known as the DREAM Act, proposed by Sen. Orrin Hatch and cosponsored by 47 other senators (3:1 Democrat), amends the sweeping Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. Advocates of DREAM seek to help students, such as 25-year-old Adeola, who is profiled in the Inside Higher Ed article.

 

Adeola’s parents brought her to America from Nigeria when she was a year old and then overstayed their student visas. Adeola, now 25, recently graduated from the University of Michigan with an industrial engineering degree. She qualified for scholarships, but could not receive financial aid because she does not have a Social Security number. Even though she has a lucrative degree, Adeola cannot find a job anywhere because of her illegal status. The DREAM Act would allow Michigan’s Attorney General to award Adeola and others in the Great Lakes State residency status, thus allowing her to pursue a job and to gain citizenship eventually. Adeola and others in her position met with members of Congress this week to express their support for the DREAM Act.

 

Opponents of the DREAM Act are concerned that such legislation rewards criminal behavior and encourages more parents to sneak into the United States. Some point out that a college education that illegal immigrants received while in the country illegally (and while taking a college slot from legal citizens) could lead to a lucrative career in other countries, especially their home country.

 

Conveniently, Adeola has no family in Nigeria and three of four of her siblings were born in America and are thus citizens. Please take note that, in true politician form, only the perfect examples are presented to Congress, rather than a more typical example. Adeola was only one when she came here (two and a half decades ago!), her parents overstayed their student visas rather than snuck in illegally (a slightly lesser offense), most of her siblings are citizens (who would dare to tear her from her family?), she has no family in her home country (how tragic), she has an impressive degree ($$$), and she just wants to work a job and pay taxes (well, presumably). Who wouldn’t give this woman residency status?

 

The problem, of course, is that Adeola is the unassailable candidate for a lenient and forgiving policy. If this bill is passed and state attorneys general support the generosity to students like Adeola, many children of illegal immigrants that were 15 when they crossed the border not five years ago would start getting in-state tuition, residency status, and other perks for which legal citizens have to wait in line. Why do politicians repeatedly ignore the illegality of illegal immigration? The real crime is that Adeola’s acceptance letter to the University of Michigan meant that some legal citizen got a rejection letter. The in-state tuition for illegal immigrants (it is not clear whether or not Adeola received subsidized tuition) is subsidized by legal resident taxpayers. There is no free money in this country, it all comes out of someone else’s pocket, and that someone is a legal taxpayer.

 

This proposed legislation could only be acceptable as an amendment to a much-needed and overarching immigration reform bill that seals the border, improves the visa system, strengthens the USCIS, addresses the entire illegal population, punishes those who employ illegal immigrants, and shuts down human trafficking. If the flood of illegal immigrants to this country is halted to a trickle, this bill would only affect those who benefited–and suffered–from our previous, haphazard approach to immigration.

 

UPDATE: You can read an expanded version of this post here.

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