Dreaming of a Better Tomorrow: In-State Tuition at the Forefront



State Immigration Project Update

Dreaming of a Better Tomorrow: In-State Tuition at the Forefront


Tuesday, April 7, 2009



For months Arizona's Sheriff Arpaio has abused his authority to combat undocumented immigration to instead engage in racial profiling, bring back chain gangs, and treating the Latino community as if they were living in townships in apartheid-era South Africa. But, thanks to civil rights activists and organizations, the campaign against his abuses is rapidly picking up steam.   

Join the Rev. Al Sharpton and ACORN CEO and Chief Organizer Bertha Lewis, on a media conference call to speak out against Sheriff Arpaio's human and civil rights abuses. 

The call will take place Today, Tuesday April 7th, at 11:30 AM EDTClick here to register and call 866-710-0179 using passcode 2009.

State Immigration Project Update


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.

New Momentum for In-State Tuition: In fact, the momentum has reversed with legislatures in Maryland, New Jersey and Colorado moving towards implementing in-state tuition for undocumented students and with governors in each state publicly willing to sign legislation.  Bills supporting in-state tuition have also been introduced in Rhode Island, Missouri, and Connecticut.  Colorado's favorable in-state tuition bill SB 170 has passed the House and the Senate committee and is destined for a floor vote.   In the North Carolina, which had briefly allowed undocumented students to enroll at community colleges but then reversed course to follow the Attorney General's position to exclude undocumented students from even matriculating at public colleges at all, the legislature is now reconsidering their options as a new study finds that allowing undocumented students to enroll at out-of-state levels would generate needed revenues for the state. Meanwhile Arkansas' bill to allow undocumented students to pay in-state rates did not make it past the Senate.   

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.

Model legislation: Washington HB 1079 (2003)
National Immigration Law Center: Why Enactment of the DREAM Act would aid the ailing economy
UCLA: Undocumented StudentsEducators for the Dream Act

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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:

  • Wage law enforcement reforms: Such reforms would address worker exploitation and misclassification in the state which has a particular impact on vulnerable immigrant workers. This will be done by creating industry task forces to pursue employers who flout wage and hour laws and to ensure that Labor Standards and Worker Protection laws are followed and enforced for all workers in the state. By focusing workplace enforcement on the unscrupulous employers who intentionally break the law and take advantage of undocumented workers, New Jersey stands in line with changing federal strategies and priorities to target the employers rather than the workers, who are the most vulnerable. It's also a position that labor and immigrant rights advocates endorse to empower vulnerable workers to stand up to abusive employers. 
  • Education:  Supporting in-state tuition and enhancing the effectiveness of bilingual and English as a Second Language (ESL) programs would help limited English proficient (LEP) students and adult English language learners to transition into the workforce. The Panel also recommended examining professional credentialing requirements.
  • Local law enforcement:  The Panel recommends re-examining the Attorney General's directive to authorize local law enforcement officers to act as federal immigration authorities and also requests a moratorium on workplace raids in the state.
  • New Americans and integration:  The creation of a New Americans Commission would bring a permanent entity within state government that could be the lead driver in implementing a holistic statewide policy of immigrant integration.  The Commission would work to ensure that all state agencies provide services in a culturally and linguistically competent manner. It would also be charged with establishing a statewide language access plan, requiring that public notices be posted in agencies informing the public of its right to access state services in languages other than English, and creating a resource guide that contains an established definition of cultural and linguistic competency.

Progressive States Network: Integrating New Immigrants into our Communities
Progressive States Network: Policy recommendations from Corzine Panel would put NJ at forefront of Immigration Reform
New Jersey Blue Ribbon Panel on Immigrant Integration report
New Jersey Immigration Policy Network: The Need to Reconsider Attorney General's Directive on Local Law Enforcement

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E-verify: Bad for Business, Bad for Workers

The E-verify system - the voluntary federal electronic program employers can use to compare workers' employment eligibility documents against federal databases from the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration - imposes a range of costs on both businesses and workers, yet fails to deal with the real problems of the underground economy.

A $10 Billion Waste: The Chamber of Commerce concluded that the net societal and business costs of implementing E-verify just for federal government contractors alone would be $10 billion a year, to say nothing of all employers.  Corporations that have tried to implement E-Verify have found it to be extremely faulty and the process uneven and counter-intuitive, which is why 99% of businesses have declined to participate.  And small businesses, which have fewer resources, face even greater burdens in implementing the changes.  This doesn’t factor in the costs of potential litigation for employers who improperly use the system to discriminate against workers, including pre-employment screening, adverse action based on tentative non-confirmation notices, and failure to inform workers of their rights under the program. 

E-Verify Will Actually Expand Underground Economy: E-verify would not prevent employers from hiring undocumented immigrants. A study by the Congressional Budget Office found that mandatory implementation of E-verify would lead more companies to bypass the unwieldy system and enter the underground economy. This would result in a cost of more than $17.3 billion over ten years of unpaid Social Security taxes. Currently,twenty-eight states do not mandate employer participation in the federal E-verify program.

Status of E-Verify Bills Around the Country: There are bills introducing E-verify provisions this session in states including Arizona, Texas, Arkansas, Oregon, New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Kansas, Indiana, Idaho, and West Virginia. Here is a quick update on states where legislation is currently moving or has had intriguing twists.   

In terms of positive actions to block introduced bills: 

Other punitive bills are still moving in their legislatures:

  • North Carolina's H 344 would not only require employers to use E-verify but would appropriate funding for a position to enforce usage. A separate bill in North Carolina (H 324 ) would force contractors seeking recovery funds to go through E-verify before receiving funding.
  • Washington HB 2269 would force E-verify usage to examine unemployment benefits.
  • Georgia HB 2, which would force local governments to use E-verify or lose funding for roads, has passed both the House and Senate.
  • Nebraska's anti-immigrant bill, which includes E-verify provisions, is slated for a final vote.
  • Utah's S 39 was signed by the Governor and mandates E-verify usage for state entities and contractors. Advocates and legislators in Utah failed in delaying the implementation of SB 81, an omnibus immigration bill passed last year which would force local law enforcement officials to serve as federal immigration authorities, and which mandates usage of E-verify by state agencies and contractors. SB 81 is set to take take effect in July and will cost $1.7 million to implement, not including the cost of potential lawsuits.   

Some States Challenging E-Verify Directly: Illinois passed a bill in 2007, HB 1744, to prohibit employers from using E-verify until the program could be shown to be highly efficacious. Following a legal challenge by the Department of Homeland Security, legislators are modifying the bill to only pertain to state employees and contractors. Another anti-E-verify bill in California (AB 1288) has been introduced which prohibits the state, or a city, county or special district from requiring an employer to use an electronic employment verification system. Mississippi's bill to prohibit E-verify which had previously passed, died in committee (S 2508/H 448).  

Immigration Policy Center: Deciphering the Numbers on E-Verify’s Accuracy
National Immigration Law Center: E-verify fact sheet for states and localities  
National Immigration Law Center: Talking points opposing E-verify

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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.  The fine for the first week would be $2500 and $5000 for subsequent weeks. 
  • 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

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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.

Southern Poverty Law Center: The Nativists: Kris Kobach
Center for International Policy: Planning the War on Immigrants

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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

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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.

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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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