Immigrants and their families have been riding an emotional rollercoaster throughout 2007. Considering last year’s talk of immigration reform, the national protest on April 9, and the failure of the Dream Act’s reintroduction in congress – a bill that would free all college-bound undocumented students of their worries – the status of immigrants in this country has been in upheaval.
This year doesn’t look too bright either, after last Thursday, Feb. 7 when 50 undocumented immigrants were arrested at a Lindon manufacturing plant. Then on Tuesday, the bill HB 241, sponsored by Rep. Glenn Donnelson, R-North Ogden, along with other bills that would affect the undocumented population, passed in the House in a 40-35 vote. This bill would repeal the in-state tuition cost for undocumented students. The basis of this legislation according to Donnelson is that we are giving undocumented students "false hope," since they wouldn’t be able to work legally in the U.S. after completing their studies.
He added, "Education is good, but what we need to do is make sure we’re not selling these students false dreams." Currently, most presidents of colleges and universities have stood against HB 241, and UVU is not staying out. President Sederburg has made it clear that he strongly supports the current system, explaining that he believes "the future of Utah depends on a college educated workforce."
With the current system, a student has to have registered at and attended a Utah high school for at least three years before graduation. Only then can a student pay in-state tuition after filing an affidavit stating that they are or will work towards becoming legalized residents. Students remain undocumented and cannot apply for scholarships or loans, let alone submit FAFSA at the last minute like many college students do – so to pay their tuition they necessarily need to work here "illegally." If the fear of immigration agents isn’t bad enough, then surely rising tuition is, since most of these students are only here to study. Many didn’t even know they were "illegal immigrants" until college.
So now what happens? Hernán Ferrón, a counselor for UVU Projects with Industry/Spanish Initiative, believes that "if HB 241 passes it will bring more social problems to our nation and more directly to our state. Students without lawful immigration status will have to pay out-of-state tuition, and this will limit their options and will make it impossible for them to attend school in the United States, consequently deferring these students to low paying jobs or even worse, to the streets and, accordingly, to commit crimes and get welfare assistance. This would create a bad impact in their culture that will affect future generations."
Many would agree that HB 241 is a step backwards and will have a greater negative effect than a positive one. Most of these students were brought here as little children and had no control whether to come here legally or not. A UVSC student who will be affected by this bill and wished to remain anonymous said, "Most of us were basically raised here, and we are not criminals.
"Many people don’t know what it’s like not knowing if you or your parents will get deported or the fact that we can’t see our family in our countries."
Although the senate will now have to vote, there is something we all can do. Contact your district senator. Write freely and seriously – without blaming – about the potential impact this legislation could have on the undocumented people it targets, and thus society at large. Personal stories are fit for inclusion, but remember that all we are trying to do is show that students are watching, and care, because in my opinion, "false hope" is better than none at all. For those living in Utah County, your representative’s name is Sen. Mark B. Madsen, and he can be contacted through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find the names of other senators, residents of other counties can visit http://se15.utahsenate.org/perl/spage/distmapal.pl