WASHINGTON – The U.S. Congress should correct as soon as possible the adverse “humanitarian and civil rights” situation confronting undocumented students in this country, according to the request made Tuesday by a group representing more than 5,000 universities.
“As the U.S. seeks to fill the need for a college-educated workforce, it should not turn its back on youngsters who can strengthen our country’s economic and social well-being,” the College Board said.
This is the first time that the College Board has come out publicly in favor of the bill known as the DREAM Act, which would permit the legalization of a large portion of the undocumented students in the United States.
The board’s 32-page report, “Young Lives on Hold: The College Dreams of Undocumented Students,” is being made public at a time when several states are blocking or trying to put obstacles in the path of any effort that would benefit undocumented students.
For example, Georgia, Oklahoma, Colorado and Arizona prohibit undocumented students from paying in-state tuition at state-supported universities, a situation that substantially increases college costs for them.
This spring, more than 65,000 undocumented students who have been in the United States for at least five years will graduate from high school and while many of their fellow graduates are making plans to attend college, they are facing a real “dead end,” as it pertains to their studies, the College Board said.
Roberto G. Gonzales, an assistant professor at the School of Social Work at the University of Washington in Seattle, seeks in the report to demolish “the myths that undocumented students limit opportunities for others.”
According to a 1982 judicial ruling, undocumented people have a right to public education from kindergarten through high school, and federal law does not prohibit them from attending college.
In practice, however, these students face many obstacles, including admission requirements, restrictions on gaining access to in-state registration status and the lack of financial aid.
The College Board, which administers the SAT examinations universities use to evaluate new students’ admission applications, feels it is counterproductive to continue denying undocumented people the opportunity to reach their maximum potential.
“Without educating these students to their full potential ... we are wasting their talent and imposing economic and emotional costs on undocumented students and on U.S. society as a whole,” the board said.
Thus, the College Board is joining dozens of lawmakers in Congress and pro-immigrant organizations that support the DREAM Act.
According to the group, the bill would benefit at least 360,000 undocumented high school graduates.
In addition, it would give an incentive to another 715,000 young people between the ages of 5 and 17 to complete high school and possibly go on to college.
This is not the first time that Congress has studied some version of the DREAM Act, but – since 2001 – those efforts have failed thanks to groups who oppose immigration reform.
For Katherine Vargas, of the National Immigration Forum, the support of the College Board for the DREAM Act, is “a recognition of the worthwhile contributions of immigrant students and the usefulness they can have for the recovery of our economy.”
A number of congressional leaders support the idea of making the DREAM Act part of an immigration reform package permitting legalization of the country’s estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants.
But detractors say that immigration reform in the middle of a full-fledged economic crisis would only further curtail the already reduced opportunities for education and jobs for American citizens. EFE