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Papers Before College


Senator Hillary Clinton has been on a roll when it comes to delivering snappy sound bytes lately. The most recent one making the rounds of blogs – no surer sign of a quote living on in infamy – is the one about “No woman is illegal.

The Democratic presidential candidate made the comment in Nevada during a campaign stop at a Mexican restaurant when someone shouted that his wife was illegal. It’s the kind of remark that teachers like to use to quiz their students on whether or not they’re keeping up with current events. But for a certain group of kids due to graduate from U.S. high schools this year, Clinton’s memorable quote is nothing more than a string of words with noble intent but no substance.

Wait, isn’t that the definition of politics?

Maybe not (entirely), but for the 65,000 students born outside the borders of the US who find themselves in the throes of senior high school activities: SAT test-taking, shopping for prom, getting fitted for cap and gown, and ordering class rings, the only thing keeping them from realizing their version of the American Dream — working legally, qualifying for in-state college tuition, citizenship — is politics.

For these students, and their families, politics is what has branded them as criminals and to be seen as “illegal” in the eyes of the law.

Though politicians seem to have declared undocumented students as the enemy, there are countless stories of teachers, principals and counselors who are able to see past the petty politics and recognize the talents and future potential of today’s undocumented students for tomorrow’s society.

That’s a good thing since politics is the driving force behind state legislatures passing punitive laws denying kids, whose only sense of home has ever been within our border the ability to their U.S.-born peers onto college campuses. They want undocumented students to pay out-of-state tuition, even if the kids traveled through a state’s school system from pre-school through high school.

In Arizona, one of the most aggressive states to deny in-state tuition to undocumented students, 4,000 students were identified in early January as being “unverified” or able to prove they were legal residents. Most of these “unverified” students were enrolled in the state’s junior college system — a sign that college affordability weighs heavily on the minds of these kids.

From a quick scan of Google news headlines, it appears more states want to follow Arizona’s lead. One governor who wants to buck the trend, Massachusetts’ Deval Patrick, is finding that changing the politics of the situation is a lot harder than changing the law.

Before the snowstorm of criticism started blanketing him, Patrick said he and his legal team were weighing whether the state could bypass current state legislation and pass a regulation that would grant in-state tuition for undocumented students.

Needless to say, Patrick is feeling the “cold” reaction to his plan from the state’s Republican Party. One political opponent to Patrick’s idea said he would go as far as “filing legislation to bar illegal immigrants from paying in-state tuition” if the governor goes ahead with his idea. You have to wonder if Patrick’s opponents are upholding the law or trying to prove political might?

It’s not until we hear about the efforts of teachers and counselors who work with the very students politicians want to punish for the sins of their parents that we see how much politics is dictating the future of these kids.

A recent Washington Post article cited how a Virginia high school counselor and a couple of parent liaisons, who run a homework club for English language learners, pooled their resources together to help one of their students speed up his resident visa application. Elsewhere in the state, the faculty at Osbourne Park High School in Manassas, Virginia is helping an 18-year-old Salvadoran senior, one of the top students in her class and the recipient of a prestigious faculty award, in one of the ways they feel politicians would understand: In addition to providing the usual scholarship and financial aid guidance the teachers are also investigating ways to get the girl’s name attached to “some sort of bill in Congress.”

Politics — it moves in strange and mysterious ways.

Now, that’s a sound byte.

Share  Posted by Marisa Trevino at 10:23 AM | Permalink

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