Friday, February 15, 2008

HB241 Keeping Undocumented Kids Uneducated

[Legislature] Rep. Glenn Donnelson's (R-Ogden) HB241 that moves to repeal in-state tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants now awaits the yea or nay of the state senate before getting passed onto the Guv's desk.

If there is any sound principle that stands out from the pissed-off rhetoric on both sides of this issue, it is the plea recently issued by the LDS church. This thing needs to be considered in reference to real impact, today and more importantly tomorrow, with compassion.

In essence HB241 is a message bill--but with teeth. It would deprive children of undocumented immigrants with a chance at affordable higher education, even if they've spent all of their high school career in Utah. The message Donnelson hopes to send is one to the federal government, that if the Feds can't fix a federal problem than it will be up to individual states to craft policies that will ultimately motivate federal policy.

But could there be other "messages" we could send? Ones which might not be as defiant, but might actually have more impact?

Why not draft legislation that would help relieve the difficulties and backlogs on legal immigration? Why not draft legislation that would allow better education and resources for foreign consulates to help guide people naturally through the immigration process?

Whatever we do in the meantime, why take away a great opportunity for children of undocumented immigrants? Fairness to taxpayers you might say. Well there's actually interesting evidence to suggest that the current system brings in more revenue for the state by bringing in students to higher ed who would not have otherwise attempted to go into college if they had to pay out of state tuition. Check out page 34 of this study done by a team of Utah researchers.

And lastly why do you have to deny in-state tuition to these kids because they can't legally work when they graduate? What about if they want to start their own business. What if they want to go into the arts? The greatest benefits of a college education aren't always what make you "marketable." There is a world of perspectives, history, philosophy, forums for civic engagement and community service that college can provide to young people that they cannot find anywhere else.

Finally even if the feds decide that they will even with a new president put off comprehensive immigration reform for another year. If you have a student who graduates from a Utah school and then is forced to go back to their home country and apply and wait for citizenship, wouldn't you prefer that when this person does come back to the U.S. that they already have an education? (Eric S. Peterson)

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