For the children of undocumented immigrants, the American Dream may be becoming more of a reality.
Inspired by a post-election national focus on immigration reform, the New York state Higher Education Committee approved a measure that will grant undocumented immigrants in-state tuition rates. The measure may also establish a fund to help undocumented students access private scholarships to pay for higher education.
The legislation would serve as a first step to giving the children of undocumented immigrants the resources they need to help pay for their college education. Students who thrive in middle and high school should have the same higher education opportunities as their peers. By denying undocumented students an education, the American government forces them to seek lower-paying jobs and further isolates immigrant communities.
While these resources are a positive step toward making higher education accessible to all qualified students, outreach efforts will be critical to ensure undocumented students are able to fully take advantage of the new legislation. High schools, colleges and government agencies must find ways to inform both students and their
parents about the opportunities that exist for students, regardless of their immigration status. By asking questions about these programs, parents are forced to admit they are breaking federal laws. Undocumented immigrants already fearful of potential deportation should be encouraged to seek out information about federal assistance programs without fear of repercussions. To make this possible, two things must be put in place: comprehensive outreach programs and laws that prevent any legal repercussions as a result of these initiatives.
The United States is, at its core, a nation of immigrants, and Congress must come together to create more comprehensive immigration policy that makes sense for current times. Reforming access to education is a good start and a sign of the progressive changes still to come for immigrant communities.