Stop Discrimination in our Colleges

Glenn Hutchinson • Apr 30, 2012

Some students face a separate and unequal path to college.

Take Florida, for example.  Citizens, born in the Sunshine State and who graduated from Florida high schools, may not have the same rights as others for in-state college tuition.  Why?  They must prove the immigration status of their parents.

So, someone who was born in Miami, grew up here, and graduated from high school will have to pay 3 times more for college if their parents can’t prove they are documented.

This practice goes against the 14th Amendment that guarantees all people born in the United States have “equal protection of the laws.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a lawsuit on behalf of these affected students.  It is estimated that thousands of young people in my state must face the tough decision as to whether they can afford to attend college or not.  It means the difference between paying $1200 per semester or $4500!

However, this example from Florida is part of a larger trend in many states: discriminating against immigrant families.

Although 12 states (including New York, California, and Texas) grant in-state tuition for undocumented students, 4 states (Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, and Indiana) go so far as to ban these students from attending college.  North Carolina reversed its decision to ban undocumented students from its community colleges; however, they must wait to sign-up for classes on the last day of registration when many classes are full.

Remember, we are talking about students who have graduated from high schools in these states.  We are telling them that they don’t have the same chances for higher education as their classmates.  It is separate.  It is unequal.

The presidential campaign also shows this anti-immigrant attitude toward students.  Mitt Romney, who has promised to veto the Dream Act if elected president, was campaigning in New York, and reportedly even refused to shake the hand of an undocumented student.

We all need to speak out.  Some students are outraged that the Republican party would nominate an anti-immigrant candidate like Mitt Romney.  There’s a petition to stop endorsements of someone who has such a negative view of immigrant students. ( petition)

Also, this past week some progressive lawmakers in Florida are trying to pass legislation that would grant more equal access to college for all students (documented and undocumented) who have graduated from high schools.   Let’s help them succeed.

25 years ago, the Supreme Court in Plyler v. Doe (1982) recognized that all children (including those who are undocumented) are protected by the 14th amendment and should have equal access to a high school degree.

What are we as a country going to do about 18-year old, Kassandra Romero, who had to drop out of Palm Beach State College because she couldn’t afford the tuition?  She’s an American citizen, born here, but she’s discriminated against because her parents are immigrants.

We are a nation of immigrants.  We need to change the national conversation about immigrant rights.  We need an equal path for higher education.  We need to live up to our ideals: justice for all.

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