Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Justice FTW

The California Supreme Court made a landmark decision yesterday by unanimously upholding AB 540, a law which allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at public universities and colleges in California. A lower court ruled against AB 540, swayed by the argument by the plaintiff that out-of-state students should not have to pay more than illegal immigrants to attend California Universities. The Supreme Court ruled that AB 540 does not offer in-state tuition based on legal residency, rather it is based on the number of years a student has attended high school in California. Therefore the legal status of the student should have no bearing on their eligibility for tuition benefits.

So what does this mean for the rest of us? First, the case sets a precedent for the 10 other states that have similar laws. It is unlikely that similar challenges will be successful, and that's a great thing for motivated students across the country who are looking to escape the cycle of poverty and ignorance that trapped their parents. (Excuse the sweeping generality. Not all undocumented workers are ignorant, poor or trapped. And by ignorant I simply mean uneducated. But as a general rule, people don't sneak into other countries just for a change of scene. Most "illegal aliens" leave behind desperate circumstances and come to America as a means of survival and to give their children and families better opportunities, something they're not likely to find anymore, sadly. But that's another story.) The California ruling is a rejuvenation of the American Dream.

Just as importantly, the ruling brings some positive publicity to the DREAM act, currently languishing in Washingotn. Pundits can argue semantics and technicalities till they're blue in the face, but what it comes down to is every child's right to an education. Students who were brought to this country by their parents when they were children should not be punished by society for a choice they did not make. If a student has the mental capacity and drive to get into college, something a lot of legal citizens can't do, then the country should allow them, should encourage them, to grow as people and become productive members of society.

As much as I hate to say it, I don't think the DREAM act will pass this congressional session. But I commend California for taking a step in the right direction by extending the right to education to the thousands of students trapped by their parents choices. If change won't happen at a federal level, this is a nice reminder that it can happen at a state level. The battle's not over, but progress has been made. Happy studies!

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