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Caroline Fan on April 8, 2009 - 2:57pm
State Immigration Project Update
Dreaming of a Better Tomorrow: In-State Tuition at the Forefront
BY CAROLINE FAN
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Dreaming of a Better Tomorrow: In-State Tuition at the Forefront
States across the country are proposing in-state college tuition rates for undocumented students, a move mirrored by Congress' proposed DREAM Act, which was re-introduced at the federal level on March 25th. Currently ten states allow undocumented immigrants to enroll in state colleges and universities under the cheaper in-state tuition rate category: California, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Washington. In recent years, anti-immigrant legislators sought to modify or repeal laws providing access to in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, though they've failed each time. This session, those efforts failed again in Utah and Nebraska. Kansas didn't even bring up repealing it.
Most States Prefer Integrating New Immigrants: As PSN highlighted in a report last year, a majority of undocumented immigrants now live in states where in-state tuition is available, highlighting the fact that states with the longest experience with immigrant populations recognize the advantage of policies to integrate new immigrants into the economy rather than indulging in punitive policies. So states like New Jersey, Maryland and Colorado are part of a wave of states which see the value in educating and retaining talented kids who want to stay in state and contribute to their local communities by paying taxes and creating jobs.
On the legal front, the Supreme Court was very clear in Plyler v Doe (1982) that undocumented students have the right to attend public school and receive an education from K-12. It's at the college level where the national bill seeks to put to rest any ambiguity on whether states have the option of letting immigrant students pay in-state rates. The federal bill does require that students be residents of the United States for five years to qualify for in-state tuition and provides a path to legal status for students finishing two years of college or serving in the military as temporary residents. After a six year conditional period, law-abiding immigrant students who meet the requirements could apply to be legal permanent residents.
Benefiting Economically from an Educated Immigrant Workforce: All the states with the highest immigrant populations have seen the full economic and societal value of educating their youth, and even states that are not traditional hubs have been rejecting anti-immigrant attacks against students hoping to better themselves and contribute to their communities. Most state leaders have in the end seen it as a question of whether or not states want to have a diverse, educated and highly-skilled workforce that can attract the businesses for the long-term, something even many conservatives agree with: “Opening educational opportunity for more of our high school graduates means our state will have a more developed work force down the road, and will be able to attract more high-growth industries," said Dick Monfort, a prominent Republican businessman and chairman of the University of Northern Colorado Board of Trustees who is supporting the Colorado tuition equity bill.
New Jersey: Leading the Way on Immigration Reform
New Jersey's Gov. Jon Corzine recently endorsed in-state tuition for undocumented students among a number of key recommendations he accepted from a report released by the New Jersey Blue Ribbon Panel on Immigrant Integration, which was convened at the Governor's request.
The report finds that immigrants yield a positive fiscal impact on the state budget. In New Jersey, immigrants bring in almost one-quarter (23%) of all earnings statewide. The report highlights that immigrants are often dynamic entrepreneurs who create jobs, generate wealth and give meaning to diversity. Today 1 in 5 entrepreneurs in New Jersey is an immigrant.
Notably, many of the Panel’s recommendations can be accomplished in a budget neutral fashion by redirecting existing resources to deliver services -- a model for budget-strapped times that other states can also follow. Proposals included:
E-verify: Bad for Business, Bad for Workers
Wage Enforcement as Better Approach to Protect Workplace Standards
Instead of states implementing E-verify, they could better address the underground economy by enforcing and strengthening wage and hour laws to protect all workers from unscrupulous employers who deliberately under pay or withhold wages. Here is a short rundown of model policies that states can implement to recover workers' wages, a policy that is increasingly in-line with changing federal priorities under the new Obama administration. Recently the GAO conducted a study finding that wage theft was not being properly investigated by the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour division.
- New Mexico: Gov. Richardson just signed H 489 to allow underpaid workers to collect their back wages plus twice that amount in damages. NM joins seven other states that has stiffened the costs for businesses that deliberately cheat their workers.
- California: S 9b was signed by the Governor and establishes a State Public Works Enforcement Fund in the State Treasury. The law continuously appropriates monies to the Fund for the enforcement of prevailing wage requirements applicable to public works projects and labor compliance enforcement.
- Iowa: SB 413 has been favorably recommended out of committee and would increase transparency of employee wages and prevent employer retaliation against workers. HSB 63 would increase penalties against employers who take advantage of child labor laws
- New York: When a worker sues their employers for underpaid or unpaid wages, A 6963 / S 3358 would allow the state Labor Commission to sue for 25% of the damages on behalf of the state. A 6885 establishes a wage compliance fund and increases penalties for not paying wages and benefits.
- Maryland: SB 406 was adopted and expands rights and remedies for private enforcement suits under the state prevailing wage law and authorizes employees to seek compensation and additional remedies. SB 451 would increase criminal penalties for violations of certain wage and hour laws and would allow each week to constitute a separate violation where a fine for the first week would be $2500 and $5000 for subsequent weeks. SB 909 would expand wage law protections for workers misclassified as independent contractors.
- North Carolina: H 87 establishes additional positions for the state to enforce wage and hour laws, as well as occupational health and safety standards.
- Rhode Island: S 643 allows workers a private right of action against employers and a civil penalty to the Department of Labor and Training in an amount of no less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) and not greater than three thousand dollars ($3,000) per representation.
Progressive States Network: Promoting Wage Enforcement Laws as an Alternative to Anti-Immigrant Proposals
Enforcement agency is failing workers, says GAO report
California immigrant workers score court victory on wages
Unpaid wage claims on the rise in New Jersey
Eye on the Right: State Legislators for Legal Immigration and Immigration Law Reform Institute
The FAIR-backed group State Legislators for Legal Immigration was formed by Pennsylvania Rep. Darryl Metcalfe in 2007 with members in 25 states. Modeled on the conservative Congressional House Immigration Reform Caucus (HIRC), SLLI finished the 2008 election almost exactly where it was at the end of the 2006 election — as a major obstruction to progressive immigration reform.
The number of highly nativist incumbents in state races decreased in the 2008 election. Entering the election, the FAIR front group State Legislators for Legal Immigration (SLLI) had 61 legislators from 33 different states. Post-election, 48 SLLI members remain in office (39 won re-election, nine had terms that weren’t up, nine lost, and nine did not seek re-election). Even conservatives are seeking more rational and strategic approaches, as a three-fourths majority of the Virginia GOP recently convened and decided to depose their current state chair, Del. Jeff Frederick, who represents Prince William County and is a proud member of State Legislators for Legal Immigration.
Based out of the same floor and same office building as the Immigration Law Reform Institute (ILRI), FAIR’s legal policy arm in DC, legislative members of SLLI commit to pushing for regressive immigration policies that are replicated in multiple states. Amongst the issues they push are increased local law enforcement and cooperation with federal immigration authorities, mandatory E-verify provisions for public and private employers, restricting or repealing in-state tuition for undocumented students, English-only acts, and drivers’ license restrictions. All of these bills and lawsuits are designed to create unnecessary barriers between immigrants and the communities in which they live.
IRLI describes itself as “a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to controlling illegal immigration and reducing legal immigration to levels consistent with the national interest of the United States.” In other words, FAIR’s ILRI works not just against undocumented immigration but also against most instances of legal immigration, despite SLLI's claims to support legal immigration.
In addition to founding Rep. Darryl Metcalfe of Pennsylavania, here are some other legislators who are charter members of SLLI:
Rep. Randy Terrill (OK);, Sen. Tom Adelson (OK), Sen. Chip Rogers (GA), Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (Virginia), Rep. Russell Pearce (AZ), Rep. Eric Koch (IN), Rep. Donna Rowland (TN), Sen. David Schultheis (CO), Rep. Kent Lambert (CO), Delegate Kelli Soboyna (WV), Rep. Leo Berman (TX), Sen. Tony Fulton (NE), REp. Rick Green (AR) and , Rep. Kim Thatcher (OR). Furthermore, Kansas Republican Party Chairman and failed congressional candidate Kris Kobach has served as IRLI’s attorney and spearheaded a series of unsuccessful lawsuits including a failed challenge to Kansas' in-state tuition bill. The Hazelton, Pennsylvania ordinances designed to "drive immigrants out", crafted by Kobach and fellow IRLI attorney Michael Hethmon, was struck down as being unconstitutional last year by a federal judge who also charged the city for all legal fees. "Everything he does has been a failure," Mira Mdivani, a Kansas immigration lawyer, told The Pitch in January 2007.
Pushing the Line on Public Safety
While many anti-immigrant advocates claim that they only oppose "illegal" immigrants, the debate on drivers' licenses has clearly not been just about whether or not undocumented individuals can have drivers' licenses (a current heated topic of debate in Maryland) but extends to whether to even permit legal permanent residents to have access to the drivers' licensing exam, a drastic measure that very few states have taken. An excellent case study on the issue is Georgia, where PSN Board Member Nan Orrock has taken a lead in opposing the bill.
In Georgia, SB 67 (“The Driving Jobs Out of Georgia Act”), would require drivers' licensing exams to be provided only in English, eliminating the Spanish, Korean, and Japanese versions in current use along with 10 other languages. This bill targets legal immigrants who should have equal access to government services and severs the strong bonds that tie immigrants into our communities. By restricting people’s ability to take the DMV exam, lawmakers limit not just worker mobility but potential economic development. SB 67 sends the wrong message to companies that want to create jobs in the state and has a number of undesirable outcomes:
- Negative impact on families — Parents/grandparents need to drive in order to work, care for their families, and bring children to school and church.
- Discrimination against lawful permanent residents, including Limited English Proficient (LEP) Georgians who should have equal access to governmental services. There are questions about whether or not the bill is even constitutionally viable, or whether the state would be inviting costly discrimination lawsuits.
- Reduces Georgia’s economic vitality — A 2007 Duke University study by Wadhwa and Saxenian shows that 30 percent of Georgia’s tech startups were founded by immigrant entrepreneurs. Thia “Driving Jobs Out of Georgia” Act sends the message that Georgia is not open to entrepreneurial investment.
- Sends a negative message to companies looking to invest in Georgia, including international companies like Kia Motors, which is willing to create jobs in the state at a time of double-digit unemployment. With almost half a million Georgians seeking work, elected officials should be actively seeking ways to attract businesses and new jobs, instead of driving jobs out of Georgia.
- Contradicts current Georgia practice that even permits illiterate applicants to take the drivers license exam by having the questions read by the examiner.
Citizens and legal permanent residents should not be penalized while they are still trying to learn English and be productive members of Georgia’s economic and civic life. Moreover, elected officials in other areas like Nashville, Tennessee defeated English only mandates as recently as January 2009 because they feared that it would create an unwelcome environment during a harsh economic climate for businesses and workers.
Working in a multi-racial, multi-lingual coalition, advocates and legislators in Georgia succeeded in highlighting the economic impact that SB 67 would have, and in drawing in national partners into the battle. The Asian and Pacific Islander communities were newly vocal, registering their highest profile ever at the State Capitol.
Senate Bill 67 passed both the Senate and the House initially but returned to the Senate for approval as an amended bill. Tremendous celebration greeted its defeat in the Senate on the final evening of the session, as it fell seven votes shy of the required majority for passage.
Progressive States Network: Nashville speaks up: English Only soundly defeated
Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials
The Center for Pan Asian Community Services: CPACS Opposes SB 67
Research and Reports
University of North Carolina and NC ACLU wrote The Policies and Politics of 287g Programs which conducts a thorough review of 287g programs in the state and finds the high economic and social costs.
The National Immigration Law Center issued an ICHIA Implementation Update on what actions states need to take to include legal immigrant children and pregnant mothers in state health insurance options.
A new study by the Kauffman Foundation says that the US is losing talented immigrant entrepreneurs who can help grow the economy.
America's Voice released a new report on the new administration's opportunity to redirect priorities to smart enforcement, abusive employers, and to focus on real border security.
NCSL summarized a number of state reports on the economic impact of immigrants in multiple states.
The Pew Research Center published a study of how immigrant and minority children are diversifying suburban school districts and decreasing racial segregation.
Immigration Policy Center released a fact check on how New Americans in the Golden State are indispensable to California's economy.
Other Notable Opinion and News
The State Immigration Project Update is written by Immigrant and Workers' Rights Policy Specialist Caroline Fan. Please feel free to contact Caroline if you have feedback, resources, or for more information.
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