For our last show of the season, we’ll be joined by Senator Patricia Torres Ray who will talk with us about the Minnesota’s version of the Immigration Dream Act. It’s happening Monday, April 29th at Huge Theater at 6:30 and you won’t want to miss it!
From Fievel Mouskevitz to Bernardo’s musical gang of finger-snapping Sharks, America loves a good immigrant story! The immigrants leave the sad motherland, come to our shores, sing awesome patriotic songs…EVERYBODY WINS!
Ironically, while we are all technically immigrants (unless you’re a Native American), immigration is a terribly polarizing issue for Uncle Sam.
Enter “Minnesota Dream Act”! This legislation allows Minnesotan students whose parents brought them here illegally as children to qualify for federal and state financial aid, in-state tuition rates, and private scholarships. The “catches” of the program require students to attend a Minnesota high school for at least three years and graduate (duh), and file an affidavit with their college or university promising to apply for an adjustment of their immigration status ASAP. Yay! Everybody wins again!
But hang on! you say. In a cash-strapped economy, priority should be given to U.S. Citizens and those who immigrated through the proper channels! Won’t the MN Dream Act set a precedent of rewarding illegal immigration by helping pay for their kids’ education?
News flash: the current immigration policies are already “unfair”. Hopelessly focused on punitive measures, our backlogged priority dates and processing times keep law-abiding folks waiting for twenty or more years. Parents desperate to provide their newborn children with the opportunity to live a better life can’t wait that long, and for them legal immigration is not an option.
Enough postulating, let’s get specific: at the University of Minnesota, two semesters (or one academic year) of undergrad tuition, housing and personal expenses comes to $13,524 for in-state residents. Nonresidents pay $18,774. That difference, multiplied by four years, comes to $21,000. For many folks, the difference in price point is a barrier to education (tough break, just because your parents brought you here when you were still pooping in diapers and eating your own boogers).
State grant analysts at the state Office of Higher Education have testified to the Senate that the estimated cost of the Minnesota Dream Act legislation is $539,000, or the equivalent of adding two students at every college in Minnesota.
Just for reference, the new Vikings’ stadium will cost state taxpayers $498,000,000. Chew on THAT.
OK, so the US Government does not have an obligation to accept every tired, poor huddled mass that comes a knocking. But the reality is that many of these students are hard-working kids innocent of any crime, and they want to get more education so that they can contribute to the economy and society that has given them so much. With the Silver Tsunami of Baby Boomers about to leave the work force by the millions, Minnesota needs skilled and educated labor. Legally or not, these students are here now; without affordable access to education, our state will face the prospect of an uneducated work force glutting the states’ resources and job market in the next ten years.
In that scenario, nobody wins.