Friday, August 24, 2012

Controversial Issues Regarding Education Of Undocumented Immigrants

In a suburban area of wealthy and working class families outside of New York City, a growing number of immigrants are settling in. It's gotten so diverse that nearly 25 percent of all residents in this area are born outside of the United States - in places such as Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Asia and the Middle East, according to a July 2010 article in The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education. Throughout the country, Latinos particularly represent a growing number of students at Associate's degree-granting institutions, such as community, junior and technical colleges.
Latinos also happen to comprise the largest number of undocumented immigrants in the country, according to the Pew Research Center. While undocumented immigrants are able to attend public schools at the K-12 level for free, a Journal News article in suburban New York City noted, some 65,000 of them graduate high school each year. These high school graduates might have problems finding jobs, entering the military and paying for tuition at even community colleges, which are often the most affordable of Associate's degree granting institutions.
The federal government since 2001 has been considering a Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act that, in its most recent version, would have allowed immigrants who came to the United States when they were younger than 16 the opportunity to qualify for citizenship. To qualify for citizenship under this latest version, immigrants would have to demonstrate good moral quality and either complete two years of military service or participate in college or university studies for at least two years, whether or not they obtained an Associate's degree.
The US Senate voted the DREAM Act down in December. A statement on the website for Kay Bailey Hutchison, a US Senator from Texas, notes that she couldn't support it because it "expanded the scope of the bill beyond the intended individuals who were brought here as children and grew up and were educated in the United States." John Ensign, a US Senator from Nevada who also voted against the DREAM Act, noted that it "does nothing to further secure our borders... (and)... goes as far as granting legal status for criminal aliens, creating a safe harbor for illegal aliens facing deportation, and does not require the completion of a college degree or military service as a condition of amnesty."
The Pew Research Center in October reported on how Latinos are a diverse group and how they can became even more divided - and concerned about immigration - as a result of a backlash against illegal immigration. On the issue of undocumented immigrants, a small majority of Latinos (53 percent) suggested that these immigrants pay fines without having to be deported. They were nearly evenly divided three ways as to whether illegal immigration positively or negatively affects the United States or doesn't affect the country at all. Where a good majority of foreign born Latinos - 70 percent - say that discrimination against them prevents them from succeeding; slightly under half of the Latinos born in the United States agreed, according to the Pew Research Center.
The Migration Policy Institute in July 2010 came out with a "DREAM vs. Reality" report suggesting that, in part because of language and financial barriers, fewer than 40 percent of the slightly more than 2.1 million total potential DREAM Act beneficiaries, the majority of them Mexican, would become legal citizens. The Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education works to increase the visibility of issues surrounding immigrant education, particularly as they relate to Associate's degree-granting community colleges. In an interview with the National Center for Refugee Employment and Self Sufficiency, consortium director, Jill Casner Lotto, suggested that the ability for immigrants to gain an education in the United States is important to their personal success as well as to the country's economy and social fabric. The consortium is now exploring how the law might affect certain aspects of Associate's degree-granting community colleges - aspects such as English as a Second Language and financial aid, for instance.
Information from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that nearly half of all Latinos who attended colleges and universities in 2008 were enrolled in Associate's degree-granting community colleges. New York State is one of only 10 in the nation where undocumented immigrants attending public colleges and universities pay a reduced tuition rate that's set aside for state residents, according to the Journal News article. Undocumented immigrants otherwise don't enjoy the government scholarship, grant and low-interest student loan opportunities that American citizens do, either.


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