Bring us your tired, your poor, so long as they are documented

A Republican state representative plans to prevent undocuments students from paying in-state tuition rates. Jay Arcansalin / UVU Review

A Republican state representative plans to prevent undocuments students from paying in-state tuition rates. Jay Arcansalin / UVU Review

Like death, taxes, and an unfortunate new “Saw” movie, every year sees a new entry in the Racism Disguised as Fiscal Conservative Legislation contest. These entries, reliable as the color change of fall leaves, generally take the form of fear mongering directed toward so-called “undocumented immigrants” and their children. Here’s an honest question: “If they’re undocumented, how do we know they’re here?”

The latest salvo in the War Against Paperless Foreign People concerns the children of undocumented immigrants receiving in-state tuition. Richard Greenwood, the Republican representative from Roy, is planning to introduce yet another attempt at preventing this group of people from obtaining even a mild form of assistance in the form of in-state tuition – in the state where they’ve lived for years no less.

These motions are frequently issued, and, thank the gods of reason, always rejected. Even Governor Herbert, a man who actively opposes anti-discrimination laws and who is hardly the paragon of open-minded tolerance, opposes such a motion; as does the LDS Church.

What possible rationale can there be for the repeated suggestion of such a demonstrably ridiculous policy?
Kris Kobach, an attorney representing students that are currently involved with litigation against Kansas for having to pay out-of-state tuition (as non-Kansas residents), claims that Utah should allow all U.S. citizens to pay in-state tuition if they’re going to offer such a benefit to undocumented citizens.

But Kobach’s claims are as baseless as Cloud City. Utah’s current policy regarding in-state tuition for undocumented students states that an undocumented student must have not only attended a Utah high school for three or more years, but also must have graduated. These students must also inform the school they wish to attend of their lack of lawful immigration, as well as intention to legally immigrate as soon as possible.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that illegal immigration is wrong. If the child of an illegal immigrant does in fact make it to the United States with their family, was this their decision? Should an 8-year-old child have stayed home because their parents’ decision to illegally cross a border was unethical? We can’t hold children responsible for the decisions of their parents.

As is made clear in a Feb. 15 “Salt Lake Tribune” editorial titled “The right to dream,” any of the 590 – yes, there are only 590, which make up about a third of one percent of the roughly 165,000 college/university students in Utah – undocumented students have had to earn their place there through academic performance and dedication, passing the same tests as their documented classmates, and will be taking the same classes, writing the same essays, and walking up the same countless flights of stairs to the GT building.

On both sides of the aisle, you’ll find someone complaining about the perceived sense of entitlement that their political opponents have. For example, conservatives may not want to pay for others’ health care, and people on the left may not want religious beliefs turned into legislation. But in-state tuition for the children of undocumented citizens is not a matter of entitlement: the fact that they’ve both been admitted and are paying tuition at all shows what they’ve earned, and placing additional arbitrary roadblocks in the way of anyone that wants an education is antithetical to the betterment of our school and state.

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