The issue of immigration is one of complicated policies and high-strung emotions. Ian Bowles’s Publisher’s Note (“Counting on new pilgrims,” CW, Fall ’05) brought to light the complicated and emotional nature of the debate. In his essay, Bowles says that the debate over in-state college tuition “troubles” him because of its “narrowness.” However, for a community that resembles the past, present, and future of Massachusetts, and is the target of hatred and vitriol locally and nationally, no debate is too narrow and no victory is too small.
Bowles asserts that allowing these students to pay the same rate of tuition as their neighbors would raise “issues of equity,” while he asks, “what good does it do” to give young people “skills attractive to companies who cannot hire them?” But this overlooks the fact that many immigrant students living among us have been Massachusetts residents for several years and are perfectly legal immigrants, yet are still unable to qualify for in-state tuitions.
We find families across Massachusetts who are in the midst of the naturalization process and are waiting for their legal permanent residence, or green card. Others have been here years under Temporary Protected Status, a legal status granted by the federal government to those fleeing political, economic, or natural disasters. Under this status, and many others, students and their families are legally authorized to work—an authorization that would remain true upon their graduation with a college degree.
Working toward this goal elicits the very hopefulness of the American Dream with which Bowles begins his essay. In the meantime, keep in mind that these students have exceeded every one of our academic and social expectations, and represent a homegrown workforce that seeks to make Massachusetts a better place.
Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition