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Students from across North Carolina gathered on Halifax Mall outside the General Assembly today under the banner of “One State, One Rate” to advocate tuition equity in higher education for high school graduates with undocumented status. The Adelante Education Coalition led the “Undocugraduation” event as part of their “Let’s Learn NC” statewide campaign.

Maria Cortez-Perez, 18, a graduate of Southwest Guilford High School, speak to her peers and reporters on tuition equity for undocumented and DACA students in front of the General Assembly on Wednesday, June 17, 2015. Photo by Ricky Leung / NC Policy Watch

Maria Cortez-Perez, 18, a graduate of Southwest Guilford High School, speak to her peers and reporters on tuition equity for undocumented and DACA students in front of the General Assembly on Wednesday, June 17, 2015. Photo by Ricky Leung / NC Policy Watch

Donned in their graduation caps and gowns, students like Maria Cortez-Perez from Southwest Guilford High School aim to share their personal stories and speak with legislators to push for support of SB 463. Introduced by Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, Jr. (R – Cabarrus, Union), SB 463 would enable undocumented and DACA students like Cortez-Perez to afford higher education through in-state tuition. At least 18 states across the country, including Texas and Utah, currently allow in-state tuition for undocumented students, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The Latin American Coalition puts the latest number at 21, 17 through state legislative action and 4 through decisions of individual university systems.

Though graduating with a 4.2 GPA, being a member of various venerable groups such as Beta Club and National Honors Society, and despite having lived in North Carolina for 16 of her 18 years of life, Cortez-Perez, along with hundreds of her peers graduating from high schools in N.C. each year, are unable to afford out-of-state tuition or receive federal and state financial aid. Adelante estimates 42,000 undocumented students to be in N.C. schools.

“North Carolina has already invested in these students through their K-12 education and can benefit from allowing them to contribute to fill the need for a bilingual and educated workforce,” Adelante said in a press statement.

Standing on a stage facing the N.C. General Assembly building, Cortez-Perez spoke of her upbringing, of the accomplishments of herself and her peers, and of the undeterred hope of fulfilling the dream of a higher education and a better future.

“We are not in the shadows anymore,” Cortez-Perez said to a group of her peers and reporters. “People know of our accomplishments.”

As the “Undocugraduation” draws to a close, students pose for a photo and toss their caps in the air before dispersing to speak with legislators to advocate for SB 463, for tuition equity and for their chance to achieve their dreams.

Commentary

In case you missed it today over on the main NCPW site, this morning’s Weekly Briefing (“The growing momentum for tuition equity”) explains why the fights for LGBT equality and fair treatment for immigrant kids have a surprising amount in common.

“It may seem odd at first to compare the plight of immigrant kids with that of LGBT adults seeking equality, but when you take a minute to consider the matter, the parallels are striking. There’s the matter of being forced to live in hiding, the effort by society to punish and even criminalize the mere act of existing and, of course, the venom both groups have been forced for so long to endure from a lot of their fellow Americans.

And now, happily, there is also the rapidly developing common experience of a societal attitude overhaul. Where once the idea of marriage equality for gay and lesbian Americans seemed unimaginable, it is now clearly here to stay.

And so, increasingly, it is with the matter of public policy solutions for undocumented kids (and maybe even their parents). Though still disparaged as ‘aliens’ and ‘invaders’ by a shrinking number of hard core nativists and paranoiacs, more and more undocumented immigrants – especially young people who have lived in the U.S. for big chunks (if not most) of their lives – are coming out and speaking out.

They may not have been born in the U.S.A., but millions of immigrant kids are, effectively, as ‘American’ as anyone else. The United States is the only country they know. Their friends are American, their schools and teachers and daily life experiences are American, the taxes they pay are American. Meanwhile, the notion of sending them elsewhere is widely and increasingly understood to be absurd.”

Click here to read the entire essay.

Uncategorized

The Greenville Daily Reflector reprinted an editorial this morning that first ran in a town with a lot of up-close-and-personal experience in the nation’s ongoing immigration crisis on the southern border. According to the editors of the Corpus Christi Times:

To hear Republican U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi tell it, Congress is willing help solve the immigration crisis if only President Barack Obama would “get off the belief that we have to do comprehensive immigration reform.”

This resistance to comprehensive reform, rampant throughout Congress, puzzles us because all the signs point to comprehensive reform as being urgent.

Consider that 52,000 undocumented immigrant children are known to have crossed the southern border unaccompanied so far this year as of mid-June, fleeing violence and poverty in their homelands. The trend is expected to continue.

There are an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country, 1.7 million of whom are what’s known as DREAMers — young people brought here as children, who would be eligible to stay under legislation known as the DREAM Act if only it were to pass. The DREAM Act would be one humanitarian step in the direction of comprehensive immigration reform. It offers legal residency to people who can’t be blamed for having come here illegally, in exchange for attaining higher education or serving in the military.

Read More

Uncategorized

Young undocumented immigrants who received temporary reprieve from deportation under a federal deferred-action plan aren’t entitled to in-state tuition for North Carolina’s universities and community colleges, lawyers for N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper wrote in an advisory letter yesterday.

Assistant attorney generals Alexander Peters and Kimberly Potter were responding to an inquiry from state Rep. Marcus Brandon, a High Point Democrat. Deferred-action, called DACA, was granted to immigrants in 2012 who came to the country as children and are now able to apply to reside and work in the country provided they have a clear criminal records and have pursued an education or served honorably in the military.

In the letter, Peters and Potter  wrote that immigrants that fall under the deferred-action plan (DACA) don’t meet the residency requirement that North Carolina uses.

That could change if the N.C. General Assembly changes the residency requirement. The letter noted that Brandon had sponsored legislation that did not pass last year that would have done that.

“In order for students who have been granted DACA status to be eligible for the benefit of in-state tuition, the North Carolina General Assembly would have to amend (the law) to make an exception for such individuals, change the residency requirements, or otherwise proved by law that individuals with DACA classification are, under such circustances as may be set by statute, eligible for in-state tuition,” Cooper wrote.

Fifteen states do offer in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, according to the National Council for State Legislatures.

Agda CA Letter by NC Policy Watch

 

 

NC Budget and Tax Center

Approximately 573,000   undocumented immigrants have applied for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, according to a new report by the Center for American Progress. Three in four—or 430,000—applicants have received deferred action, meaning they have been granted work authorization and temporary relief from deportation. This is a significant accomplishment considering the program was launched last summer. Yet, challenges remain with the implementation in certain states and with building a more diverse pool of applicants.

Second only to Indiana, North Carolina has the highest implementation rate of DACA-approved applications as a share of total estimated DACA-eligible youth (including those not yet eligible). Our implementation rate stands at 45.5 percent but jumps closer to 100 percent when only considering the immediately eligible population. The implementation rates drops to a low of 5.4 percent in Maine and are lower-than-expected in 13 states and the District of Columbia, signaling more outreach is needed in these areas. Read More