Proposition 300, an initiative passed by Arizona voters in November 2006, was an insidious jab at disadvantaged students. It scored political brownie points, but did little to address any real problem and offered even less of a solution.
The proposition stipulates, among other things, that Arizona colleges and universities must enforce a strict interpretation of residency requirements. Undocumented students, who may have lived and worked in the United States for most of their lives, must be denied in-state tuition, access to adult-education classes and any financial aid even partially subsidized by state funds. For many academically qualified but undocumented Arizona youth, this represents a deathblow to their pursuit of higher education.
We’re now seeing its negative repercussions. More than 1,500 students at Pima Community College have been denied residency status. Many are turning away, unable to afford non-resident fees that cost four times as much as in-state tuition. ESL class enrollment is down across PCC campuses.
Arizona legislators aren’t done yet. House bill 2043, while still on the negotiating table, would deny any college admission to undocumented students. What good does this assault achieve?
In reality, tens of millions of undocumented immigrants continue to live in the shadows. Washington politicians remain deadlocked over genuine immigration reform. Yet, Arizona colleges and universities must enforce a law that removes their focus from education and community improvement, and turns them into de facto immigrant police.
De facto is Latin for ‘it may not necessarily say this in writing, but this is what it’s really about.’ Jim Crow laws, such as voter literacy tests before the Voting Rights Act of 1965, had the de facto effect of disenfranchising minority populations, especially African Americans.
It’s clear that Proposition 300’s de facto consequences unfairly target poor Latino youth from working-class families. The law is racially motivated and mean-spirited.
Undocumented immigrants come to this country to escape economic desperation in their own countries. Their innocent children, carried across the border in a parent’s arms, usually assimilate, excel in school and ultimately identify with this country. Instead of putting up road blocks, why aren’t we creating pathways for these individuals to gain citizenship?
It’s time to take a clear stand against Proposition 300 and any other legislation that runs contrary to this nation’s ideals. Until the misguided proposition can be overturned, let’s find ways to provide scholarships to long-time state residents who have been unfairly targeted.
As students and educators, we must let the world know that Pima Community College is in the sole business of educating. We shouldn’t play immigrant police, which ultimately is the constitutional role of the federal government.
PCC should get back to the ideals found in its mission statement, to develop the community through learning. Immigrants have always been a part of our Tucson community. We stand united with our brothers and sisters for a brighter future in higher education.
-Written by Peter Rice