Dream Act awaits vote from Senate
Undocumented citizen students might be grated in-state tuition rates in near future
The Student Senate will vote Tuesday on a resolution that would ask the Board of Regents to give undocumented citizen students in-state tuition rates.
The resolution, known as the Dream Act, is supported by the Eastern Michigan University group Dare to Dream, a subgroup of the Latino Student Association. The resolution passed unanimously in the Political Action Committee (PAC) and is now going before the senate.
Undocumented immigrants are foreign nationals who entered the United States without authorization, or who entered legally but remained without authorization.
According to the Pew Research Center, Michigan has an estimated 150,000 undocumented residents.
Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Kevin Kucera said current policy is to charge out-of-state tuition rates and estimated the number of enrolled students who would qualify is minimal.
Antonio Cosme, a southwest Detroit native, was director of the PAC in 2009 when a Dream Act resolution was passed formally supporting the bill.
“We passed a resolution on the Dream Act, but it was more supporting it nationally,” Cosme said of the 2009 decision.
This year the resolution is more focused on enacting a policy on EMU’s campus. After passing the PAC, it is brought before the senate, and if passed, student body president Jelani McGadney will need to sign it within 14 days.
McGadney said the impact of the resolution depends on future student governments, as his term is ending.
“It [the resolution] can lead to change if we can make the arguments and continue to engage the administration on this serious issue,” McGadney said.
Administrators are unsure of how the resolution will fair in the Senate.
“We respect and value of input from our students and Student Government,” vice president for communications for the university Walter Kraft said. “It is an important part of the university process. As any resolution that is presented, it will be reviewed and evaluated. It would be premature at this initial stage to discuss any potential impact.”
Among students, the resolution has been met with mixed responses.
Julio Garibaldi, 19, was a student at EMU before having to take time off.
“I had to drop out because I could not afford my college tuition,” Garibaldi said.
Garibaldi, a Michigan resident for 18 years, hopes that if enacted, the Dream Act would allow him the chance to go back to school.
“If it passes, it ensures me that I can get scholarships and go back to college,” Garibaldi said.
Matthew Rutkoske, a student government senator, said the resolution needs to be reworked for him to support it fully.
“I think everyone deserves the right to have education, but at the same time at the current state the DREAM Act is in, I can’t support it,” Rutkoske said. “I don’t want to set up a system that allows people to come to the country and bring their children and have this be a backdoor to allow their kids to continually get citizenship.”
Rutkoske is a member of the PAC, but was unable to attend the meeting the resolution was passed.
Lance Fortney, a junior economics major, said he does not believe the resolution will be effective if passed.
“I don’t think they can really have an impact on what’s going on by passing this resolution,” Fortney said. “If they passed it, nothing’s really going to change. I think they should be focusing on [issues] they can actually make change.”
If passed by the Senate, McGadney and the administration, EMU would be able to implement the resolution.
In Michigan, universities have constitutional autonomy to regulate their own tuition, according to Cosme.
“Basically they can set residency, The goal of this would be that undocumented immigrants could establish residency and pay in state tuition without needing a social security number.”
Cosme is referring to the 1963 rewrite of the Michigan Constitution which established university constitutional autonomy, essentially giving the management and control of the institution to the governing body, in EMU’s case, the Board of Regents. This allows the university to decide tuition rates and who qualifies for in-state tuition.
Federal law forbids undocumented immigrants from being eligible on the basis of residence within a state for any post-secondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit.
Despite this, 13 states have adopted policies that, in effect, grant in-state tuition to undocumented citizens, according to the resolution.
The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 prohibits undocumented citizens from receiving federal loans and grants, including work-study jobs.
California has a state law providing resident tuition rates to undocumented immigrants based on their attendance at high schools in the state.
The United States Supreme Court denied an appeal from the California Supreme Court and upheld the law allowing for in-state rates for undocumented citizens who had three or four years in a state high school in Martinez V. Regents of the University of California.
If the resolution passes in the Senate on Tuesday, McGadney has 14 days to sign it or the resolution essentially dies. The Senate can override McGadney with a two-thirds majority vote.
*Kody Klein contributed to the reporting of this article.Originally Published: 03/11/12 7:29pm