It is estimated that 65,000 unauthorized immigrants graduate from high school each year. These graduates have lived in the U.S. for more than 5 years and most were often brought to the U.S. by their parents as young children. On Michelle Obama: https://www.amazon.com/gp/search?ie=UTF8&tag=mg03-20&linkCode=ur2&linkId=f244891c490a770c404329b16ff8e1c8&camp=1789&creative=9325&index=books&keywords=michelle%20obama
This leaves the U.S. Government with the question of what rights to give the unauthorized immigrants after their graduation, particularly with access to higher education. A 2010 study conducted at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) on unauthorized immigrants and higher education:
Installing pathways to higher education and in-state tuition for undocumented students in the United States presents both opportunities and constraints in developing practices that promote social justice, equity, and equality. Those who are sympathetic to the challenges facing undocumented students may support opportunities to promote the potential of those who are deserving of incorporation and membership in U.S. society. On the other hand, proponents of tighter borders and tougher immigration laws may view all undocumented people, including model, hardworking young people, as “illegals” or temporary workers and consider them to be drains on the resources of society. This puts educational administrators in precarious positions since they are professionals who are trained to promote and support students in their pursuit of knowledge and self-improvement. Therefore, many professionals are left with little choice but to search for individuals and resources already established within outlaw cultures.”
In 1996, the United States passed a law banning states from offering residency benefits to unauthorized immigrants that they didn’t then also offer to every U.S. citizen. This basically made it so that states could not offer in-state tuition to unauthorized immigrants, even if they technically qualified based on residency status. States have argued the clarity of this law and many have enacted their own laws allowing in-state tuition to be given on the claims that it’s based on high school attendance and not explicitly residency. This law is especially important since unauthorized immigrants are also unable to obtain governmental financial aid and are unable to legally work, leaving them without sources to help pay for out-of-state tuition.
The DREAM Act was introduced in 2001 and aims to give more access to higher education for unauthorized immigrants by repealing the law 1996 law. It also aimed to set up pathways for students who obtain higher education to become legal residents. The act has been introduced in many states and many different times, but has still not been passed. Critics of the act argue that it encourages more illegal immigration, that schools will engage in grade inflation so that border-line students can take advantage of the act, and that a financial burden could be placed on taxpayers. Proponents argue the opposite, emphasizing that giving the unauthorized immigrants an opportunity at higher education means they will be more self-sufficient in the future, contributing more to taxes and relying less on state resources. They also claim that children should not be punished for the actions of their parents and that giving them this opportunity would encourage them to be contributing and law abiding citizens. Whether this act would have positive effects on unauthorized immigrants attending college is still hard to see since not many states have actually done it and the time span has not been enough for thorough research.
The 2010 UNLV study recommends key policy changes to support unauthorized immigrants access to higher education.
In general, practitioners need to weigh opportunities against constraints and consider the potential opportunities to promote social justice, equality, and equity in higher education access. Rather than considering undocumented students as “illegals” and restricting their access to legitimate educational pathways, it is recommended that, at the very least, those in positions of power adopt an outlaw cultural framework to support the strengths inherent within diversity as well as pursue avenues of social justice for undocumented students who are seeking to access higher education to improve their future and secure permanent membership in U.S. society.