While President Obama pushed Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform in his State of the Union address, many states are already moving toward a more sensible set of policies. Nowhere is this clearer than in their offering equal access to higher education, regardless of immigration status.

Twelve states have laws allowing students who meet specific requirements, regardless of their status, to pay in-state tuition rates at public post-secondary institutions: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Washington.

Rhode Island's Board of Governors for Higher Education adopted a policy permitting eligible students to pay in-state tuition rates, regardless of their status. And Minnesota offers a "flat" tuition rate to all students, including undocumented immigrants.

Three states -- California, Texas, and New Mexico -- allow qualified students, irrespective of immigration status, to get financial aid or scholarships, and another, Illinois, established a private fund to raise money to aid undocumented students.

New York may soon join this group. Assembly Democrats in Albany support the tuition assistance bill, while Senate Republicans seem to be wavering in their opposition. So far, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been sitting on the fence. A vibrant coalition of students and educators have high hopes, however, that Cuomo will demonstrate the kind of leadership he exercised in passing laws on gun control and gay marriage.

At least a dozen other states are likely to consider bills to improve access to education for immigrants -- measures that are gaining bipartisan support.

Colorado's tuition equity bill is well on its way to becoming law this year. In a state where immigration at times has been a toxic issue, the politics shifted dramatically after last year's election. Republicans lost their majority in the state Senate, while Democrats held theirs in the House, in no small part due to political participation among Latinos, who were repelled by the anti-immigrant rhetoric of Republican politicians. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, has expressed support for the measure, and in the post-election context, one Republican already has voted for the bill.

The moral case is clear. These "DREAMers" have lived in the United States since they were children. So many are outspoken, smart, passionate, and trying to realize the American Dream. Large numbers first made the heartbreaking discovery that they did not have a Social Security number or a lawful status when they applied to college.

The economic argument is even clearer. Higher levels of educational attainment mean greater productivity for workers, and a state with better-educated workers provides a more attractive climate for business. A college degree translates into increased incomes for individuals and stronger tax revenues. In New York, the Fiscal Policy Institute estimated that the typical graduate of a two-year college earns $10,000 more than a high school graduate, and pays $1,000 a year more in state and local taxes. That's a very good return on the state's investment -- and the returns look even better for four-year degrees.

These forward-looking state policies on immigration won't substitute for comprehensive reform at the federal level, but they do help point the way.

After all, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and California Gov. Jerry Brown may not see eye to eye on much, but they agree that investing in education for their state's youth is smart policy.

David Dyssegaard Kallick is director of the Fiscal Policy Institute's Immigration Research Initiative. Tanya Broder is a senior staff attorney of the National Immigration Law Center. They can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

You can read more pieces from The Progressive Media Project by clicking here.


Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.


The beauty and the tragedy of everyday life in a war zone.

Maybe I should only be shocked that I wasn’t shocked a long time ago.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project