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Illegal Students Face Obstacles Even After Graduation

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) – When Rhode Island became the 13th state to allow in-state tuition for illegal immigrants at public colleges, supporters heralded the move as one that would give students the kind of advanced education they need to succeed in the workforce.

But students who are not here legally may still face a major obstacle even with the benefit of a college degree: Many have no immediate pathway to legal status and, under current federal immigration law, employers cannot legally hire them.

“I know of students who have graduated magna cum laude and top honors in their colleges, but right now they’re working minimum wage in restaurants,” said Antonio Albizures-Lopez, 20, who came to the U.S. from Guatemala when he was 1.

Albizures-Lopez, who is pursuing legal residency, says the best solution is passage of federal legislation, known as the DREAM Act, which provides a pathway to legal residency for college students.

The Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education, which oversees the state’s three public higher education institutions, unanimously approved in-state tuition for illegal immigrants last week, effective in the fall of 2012. The General Assembly had failed repeatedly to take action on legislation that’s been introduced year after year.

Eleven states — California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Texas, Utah and Washington — have laws allowing the children of illegal immigrants to receive in-state rates if they meet certain requirements, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Oklahoma allows in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants under a state Board of Regents policy.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee, in urging the Board of Governors to adopt the change, said it would allow more Rhode Islanders to attend college, help build a stronger workforce and boost an economy that is among the nation’s most troubled.

Research varies on how much resident tuition rates for illegal immigrants increase enrollment. A 2010 paper co-written by Aimee Chinn, an economist at the University of Houston, did not find a sizable increase overall for 18- to -24-year-olds in the 10 states studied, though it did find that Mexican men in their 20s attended at modestly higher rates. It also found that even in-state tuition may still be too expensive, especially since illegal immigrant students do not qualify for federal education aid.

By contrast, a study this year by the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, which looked at an array of research on the issue, said that in-state tuition has led to an enrollment increase among illegal immigrants, on average, of 31 percent in the places it has been implemented.

The Urban Institute has estimated that 65,000 illegal immigrants graduate from high school in the U.S. every year.

But even if more students go on to attend public colleges and universities with the benefit of in-state rates, a big question remains: How will they fare in the workforce after they graduate, even with a degree that traditionally makes it easier to get the kind of high-skill, high-paying job not available to those who finish only high school?

“Even with a college degree, there hasn’t been a more general immigration reform that would enable these kids to get a job once they have their degree,” said Chinn.

Amanda Pereira, 18, came to the U.S. illegally at the age of 6 from Brazil with her family.

“In a way, it is going to be another dead end,” she said. “But in a way it is a help because at least they got through another four years and got their education, so they can find ways to possibly get legalized through an employer.”

The Brandeis University freshman was granted legal status — after more than a decade pursuing it — last spring, but is continuing to advocate for illegal immigrant students.

“We do need to continue pushing for the DREAM Act,” she said.

That federal legislation — the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act — would provide a pathway to legal residency for illegal-immigrant students providing they meet certain requirements. A December study by UCLA estimated that such students could contribute anywhere from $1.4 trillion to $3.6 trillion to the nation’s economy over the course of their careers, depending on how many ultimately obtain citizenship.

But the bill has failed to win the necessary votes on Capitol Hill despite repeated tries, and its prospects for passage are uncertain.

Albizures-Lopez, a resident of Lincoln who graduated from Blackstone Academy Charter School in 2009, called in-state tuition a “stepping stone” to college but added, “It’s not complete. It’s not even halfway complete.”

He says he has “protected status” while his legal case for residency is pending, so he is able to work a part-time job coaching soccer at a private high school. He plans to apply to college, including the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College, where he could get in-state rates. URI’s in-state tuition is $9,824, compared to $25,912 for out-of-state.

Terry Gorman, executive director of Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement, opposes in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. He cites a 1996 federal law that laid out certain restrictions on illegal immigrant benefits, and says it’s a violation of that statute to provide in-state tuition to students who came here illegally, on the basis of residence, if the same break is not available to all students — including those from out of state.

Students paying out-of-state rates at California institutions mounted a legal challenge on those grounds, but the state Supreme Court upheld the in-state tuition policy, saying it did not conflict with federal law. The U.S. Supreme Court in June declined to hear the case.

But Gorman also maintains that the policy change offers students in the U.S. illegally a “false hope” about their post-graduation prospects.

“This is going to be an educated population that can’t do anything with their education because they’re illegal aliens,” he said. “What do they do? They can’t work.”

Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco, who conducted the Latino Policy Institute study at Roger Williams, points out that, while that’s the law, it isn’t necessarily the reality. She said that under current enforcement practices, many who are here illegally are in fact being hired. That being the case, she said, they may as well be college-educated.

Under the new policy in Rhode Island, in-state rates will be available only to illegal immigrants’ children who have attended a high school in the state for at least three years and graduated or received a GED. Students also must commit to seek legal status as soon as they are eligible, or lose their resident tuition.

Supporters of the policy change say it would affect approximately 140 students in Rhode Island.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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  • darrell

    solving the immigration problem is far more complicated than changing a handfull of laws and a giant paper chase for millions of current illegals. it involves changes and adaptations in virtualy every governmental department there is. in some cases it will do more harm to illegals than it does good. having said that, no immigration change in policy can be done without first sealing the border between Mexico and the U.S. integration of illegals into mainstream society as citizens will be painful for all. many current illegals will not be able to adapt to those changes and will suffer financialy. initially the increased cost in government services will be astronomical as new citizens become eligable for them. employers will either have to absorb the increased cost of labor and benefits or layoff current workers many of which will have no record by which they can draw unemployment. as mass numbers are absorbed over short periods of time the economic our national debt will increase by trillions of dollars. statistics on unemployment and other economic indicators will go off the charts. it could be the disaster that brings this nation to its economic knees.
    from an economic and practical view, even though socially difficult to do, the best solution is to seal the border and deport many of them. our nation is not in a position to be able to handle the allready 20 to 30 million current illegals here and absorb the millions more coming in annualy. we just cant do it.

  • tid

    I just do not understand how intelligent people fail to grasp the term ‘illegal’. Illegals should not be entitled to any federal, state or local aid. If an individual wants to give his money fine!!! Just don’t force the rest of us.

  • schrodinger

    Military service might be the answer for many of these kids who were brought here as babies by their illegal immigrant parents.

    Under order of President George Bush, any person serving on active duty
    in the armed forces on or after September 11, 2001 benefits from special “active
    hostilities” or “wartime” naturalization rules. “Active duty” means serving
    full-time in any capacity in the United States Military, including training duty,
    attendance at a military school while in active military service, and service in
    non-combatant duty. Active duty DOES NOT include service in the standby

    Qualifying military service is generally in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and certain components of the National Guard and the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve. The general requirements for naturalization may be diminished or waived for qualifying service member.

    Naturalization through One Year of Qualifying Service During “Peacetime”
    Generally, a person who has served honorably in the U.S. armed forces at any time may be eligible to apply for naturalization under section 328 of the INA. The military community sometimes refers to this as “peacetime naturalization.”

    In general, an applicant for naturalization under Section 328 of the INA must:

    Be age 18 or olderHave served honorably in the U.S. armed forces for at least 1 year and, if separated from the U.S. armed forces, have been separated honorably Be a permanent resident at the time of examination on the naturalization applicationBe able to read, write, and speak basic EnglishHave a knowledge of U.S. history and government (civics)Have been a person of good moral character during all relevant periods under the lawHave an attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and be well disposed to the good order and happiness of the U.S. during all relevant periods under the lawHave continuously resided in the United States for at least five years and have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application, UNLESS the applicant has filed an application while still in the service or within 6 months of separation. In the latter case, the applicant is not required to meet these residence and physical presence requirements.Naturalization through Qualifying Service during Periods of Hostilities
    Generally, members of the U.S. armed forces who serve honorably for any period of time (even 1 day) during specifically designated periods of hostilities (see below) are eligible for naturalization under section 329 of the INA through such military service.

    In general, an applicant for naturalization under INA 329 must:

    Have served honorably in active-duty status, or as a member of the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, for any amount of time during a designated period of hostilities and, if separated from the U.S. armed forces, have been separated honorably Have been lawfully admitted as a permanent resident at any time after enlistment or induction, OR have been physically present in the United States or certain territories at the time of enlistment or induction (regardless of whether the applicant was admitted as a permanent resident)Be able to read, write, and speak basic EnglishHave a knowledge of U.S. history and government (civics)Have been a person of good moral character during all relevant periods under the lawHave an attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and be well disposed to the good order and happiness of the U.S. during all relevant periods under the lawThere is no minimum age requirement for an applicant under this section. The designated periods of hostilities are:

    April 6, 1917 to November 11, 1918September 1, 1939 to December 31, 1946June 25, 1950 to July 1, 1955February 28, 1961 to October 15, 1978August 2, 1990 to April 11, 1991September 11, 2001 until the presentThe current designated period of hostilities starting on September 11, 2001, will terminate when the President issues an Executive Order terminating the period.

    Note: current members of the U.S. armed forces who qualify for naturalization under sections 328 or 329 of the INA can proceed with their naturalization application either in the United States or overseas. http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.eb1d4c2a3e5b9ac89243c6a7543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=ce613e4d77d73210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=ce613e4d77d73210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD

    • darrell

      percentage wise the number of qualifying illegals would be extremely small compared to our military needs and ability to support. unless of course we are going to invade china. it is an option though a few can explore.

    • schrodinger

      Sorry for the crummy spacing. I posted this directly from the USCIS website, in the link supplied in my previous post.

  • jeff

    Take away all the incentives that bring Illegals here and they will return on their own. No benefits, PERIOD! When you have acquired a LEGAL status, it should be stipulated that you must be or have been a citizen for a minimum period of time, say 1-2 years. Create a “Special Prison” system for Illegal Immigrants. The prison would house segregated violent and non violent offenders of Illegal Immigration crimes. These prisons would supply the work force for some factory work, vegetable and fruit produce harvesting and refinery, and assorted other labor jobs that could easily be adapted to a prison workforce. The companies involved would pay the prison system instead of the prisoners. This way the prisoners are paying for the costs of their own housing and food. First time offenders should be given 1-2 years sentences. Progressive sentences for repeat offenders. Deporting them has failed so far, but when faced with actual prison time, how many would make the same choice to enter the US Illegally?

  • Opinionsforall

    They are law breaking criminals competing against citizens for jobs.they should not even be allowed in our schools,much less be in the country. We have immigration laws to protect citizens,just like we have burglary laws to keep people from breaking into homes and businesses to steal. Same thing. Deport them all!

  • WB Williams

    Unbelievable that this is an issue. United States immigration law has been broken and the miscreants are being rewarded? Why don’t we Americans just stop paying taxes, then the government will collapse. We can then start over with the first step in the process being the execution of the idiots that have gotten the country in this ridiculous mess in the first place. Mindboggling, truly mindboggling.

  • Alton Robinson

    What happened to the law of aiding and abetting? I guess laws don’t reall apply to some people!

  • DavidN

    What we really need is a DEPORT ACT!

  • 2sister

    I don’t agree with illegal immigration, but there are civil ways of expressing that. Also, I feel for the children who were brought here illegally. That is the fault of the parents, and not a child. Children usually have know say in their lives, especially when they are very young. If the children, when old enough, want to become legal residents or citizens, I don’t have a problem with that, as long as they actually pursue that and they pay taxes. That doesn’t mean, however, that I think people should keep coming here illegally, because I don’t.

    • 2sister

      Oops. I meant no say.

  • oldman69

    as lomg as a lot of American companies use these illegals for labor and the US allows it-NOTHING is going to change-only get worse.As long as the pols in this country depend on the corps and lobbyists for their “campaign” funds- NOTHING is going to changeAs long as we as voters keep putting the same bozos in office-NOTHING is going to change.Look in the mirror people-we are the ones to blame-If we don’t change it-NOTHING will change-get used to it.

  • Jubal

    There is a process for legal immigration. Has not changed appreciably for the last 100 years. Follow it. The ‘Dream Act” bs is intended only to buy the votes of those that are here illegally. As these ‘poor graduates’ find out eventually, ILLEGAL IS ILLEGAL. period. Sorry, kids, but your ‘loving parents’ should have thought ahead. Not my problem. Your problem and your parents’. Do it legal or don’t, but don’t complain when you are picked up, processed like a criminal (which, unfortunately, you are) and sent to your or your parents’ home country.

  • JustinC

    Boofuc*inhoo. Poor poor illegals. WAAAAAH. Stupid story. Like I care.

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