Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) reintroduced the Higher Education Dream Act of 2019, as a response to discriminatory action states have taken, and some intend to take, to block the attendance of some immigrants to college and university education. This bill would prohibit institutions that receive federal funds from refusing to admit, enroll, or grant in-state tuition benefits to qualified students based on their immigration status. It would also expand federal financial aid opportunities to DREAMers.
“No human being is illegal,” the author of the bill, Rep. John Lewis says, who introduced this legislation in the last Congress. “Immigration status should not become an excuse to treat people in an inhumane way. We should be making it easier, not harder, for people who have the desire to pursue an education to get one. People who are informed are better participants in any society where they live. They tend to instill the value of education in their children and help create a more enlightened world. I am proud to introduce this bill with my colleague Rep. Gallego as a way to open the doors of opportunity for young immigrant students.”
“I was appalled by the Arizona State Supreme Court decision last year to bar DACA recipients from receiving in-state tuition at colleges and universities in our state,” said Rep. Gallego. “DREAMers are Americans in every way that matters, and undocumented students, including DACA and TPS recipients, shouldn’t be barred from seeking higher education or the in-state tuition and federal financial aid they need to afford it. I’m proud to introduce this bill with Rep. Lewis to open the doors for immigrant students to continue to be a source of strength and vitality for our economy and our nation.”
In 1982, the Supreme Court decided in Plyler v. Doe to allow undocumented students to attend public elementary and secondary schools but remained silent on the question of higher education. As a result, there are a patchwork of policies that vary state-by-state, which create a series of hurdles for DREAMers to access higher education.
Currently, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina bar undocumented students from enrolling at public universities. Alabama and South Carolina allow exceptions for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, but Georgia bars DACA recipients from attending the University of Georgia, the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), and Georgia College.
State and university system policies can change suddenly, which results in uncertainty and despair for aspiring students. For example, a 2018 Arizona Supreme Court decision ended DACA students’ eligibility for in-state tuition. Twenty states either prohibit DREAMers from receiving in-state tuition or lack a formal law or policy, and eight others deny in-state tuition to some students.
This legislation provides clear standards and hope for those seeking to realize the American Dream.