A brighter future for immigrant students
Just in time for graduation season, Colorado’s Legislature and Gov. John Hickenlooper have delivered a gift that will be treasured by many a high school graduate.
Hickenlooper this week signed a bill applying the in-state college tuition rate to Colorado high school graduates who entered the country illegally, as long as they agree to seek legal status.
That means students without legal status no longer will face an out-of-state rate sometimes three times higher — often high enough to be a deterrence to going on to college.
The students have faced that hurdle despite typically having had no say in their move to the United States, a decision made by their parents. Often they’ve lived here most of their lives, have little familiarity with their native countries and have grown up with the hope of pursuing the American dream. But while they may have excelled in school, some have seen their dreams shattered by the prospect of being charged out-of-state tuition rates.
Efforts to remove this punitive provision have been ongoing for a decade.While they once met with stiff opposition, this year’s measure passed through a House committee without anyone signing up to testify against it, the Associated Press reports.
That may reflect a changing national mood toward immigration reform, including within the GOP, which is recognizing that its future viability depends partly on being less dogmatic on the issue.
Immigration reform has never been a simple issue. Our nation certainty can’t afford to throw its borders wide open and allow unfettered entrance, and so it works to enforce immigration laws. But the stories of many of those lawbreakers also are simply stories of people seeking a better life for themselves and their families, a familiar refrain in the settling of our country.
When we treat their children as lawbreakers, thereby making a college education cost-prohibitive, we can expect that at least a few who are discouraged by their limited options in life may, indeed, become criminals. Many more, who often won’t even apply themselves in public school because of the academic dead-end they knows lies ahead, will fail to live up to their career potential and serve as drags on society rather than contributors to it.
In Colorado, policymakers have chosen to offer many of the state’s immigrant graduates a different path. Those students, and the state, will be better off for it.