Rubin, Hobbs and Lykken: It was all a DREAM

This past January, State Senators Martin Looney (D-11) and Donald Williams (D-11), as well as State Representative Juan Candelaria (D-95), introduced the Connecticut DREAM Act, a bill that would allow all Connecticut students to pay in-state tuition for Connecticut universities, regardless of their immigration status.

This makes a real difference for students: the University of Connecticut charges in-state tuition of around $8,000, while out-of-state tuition is over $24,000. Costly tuition prevents many undocumented students from attending college, especially since they cannot qualify for any federal or state tuition assistance.

This bill is a sensible step forward for immigration reform. According to the National Immigration Law Center, about 65,000 undocumented, US-raised students who would qualify for in-state tuition graduate from high school each year. These include hundreds of New Haven students, and thousands across the state. They are valedictorians, varsity athletes and student council presidents. Children who were illegally brought to America by their parents should not be penalized for decisions that were outside of their control. They study and work alongside their fellow students as equal partners in the classroom. They too deserve the opportunity to realize the benefits of their hard work.

Eleven other states across the country — both red and blue — have already recognized these benefits and have passed their own in-state tuition bills into law. California, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin have all enacted this important piece of legislation. It’s time Connecticut does the same.

Here in Connecticut, a similar bill was passed in 2007 by both the state Senate and House only to be vetoed by then-Governor Rell. Our current governor, Dan Malloy, recently indicated his support for the bill. Just a few weeks ago, the New Haven Education and Human Services Committees unanimously recommended the Board of Aldermen approve a resolution supporting this bill. New Haven Mayor DeStefano has also expressed his support.

The passage of the Connecticut DREAM Act would also work to sustain New Haven Promise, a key component of the city’s innovative education reform efforts. By paying up to full tuition for New Haven students who maintain a 3.0 GPA and perform 40 hours of community service throughout high school, New Haven Promise will ensure that a college degree is a realizable goal for every New Haven graduate. As the program is open to all city residents, the Promise program will be forced to pay out of state tuition rates for the city’s undocumented students in the absence of an in-state tuition bill. By passing this bill, we can ensure the long-term sustainability of the program and make good on the promise made to all of the city’s students.

Fiscally, this bill makes sense. Passing the Connecticut DREAM Act would enable a group of motivated students to contribute to our society in ways they cannot today. As Senator Looney put it, “Connecticut’s economic future depends on having a highly capable, educated workforce.” The bill would unlock the talent of these students to contribute to communities right here in Connecticut. Moreover, according to the Office of Fiscal Analysis, the bill would result in a potential revenue gain for most Connecticut colleges. The students who would benefit from this bill have been raised and educated here, and local taxpayers have already invested in their education. This bill would generate a return on that investment.

This bill is not about amnesty. This bill is a practical, fiscally responsible, and socially just way to enable motivated students to attend college. Though the federal DREAM Act was filibustered by Senate Republicans in the lame-duck session, we will continue to fight both nationally and locally for this important cause. Undocumented students in high school now cannot wait for the federal government to act first, and neither can we.

The Yale College Democrats and our allies across the state will continue to fight for the passage of the Connecticut DREAM Act. This Saturday we will be joined by students and members of local community groups for a rally at City Hall. On March 2, the Dems will go to Hartford to lobby state legislators for passage of this bill. We invite you to join us in our efforts.

We have a duty to fight for the rights of our fellow students, young adults who have put their futures on hold because they cannot attend college. It’s time we turned their dreams into a reality.

Josh Rubin, Nicole Hobbs and Adin Lykken are freshmen in Davenport, Ezra Stiles, and Calhoun Colleges, respectively. They are Yale College Democrats board members.

Correction: February 24, 2011

An earlier version of this article misspelled the last name of Adin Lykken.

Comments

  • ignatz

    First, let’s be honest — throwing money at the children of illegal immigrants is not “immigration reform” at all. It does nothing to address illegal immigration, past, present, or future. Nothing.

    Second, the State of Connecticut, whose money you propose to give away, has nothing left to give and is limping through the current 2-year budget cycle only through deficit financing (just like living off your credit cards). The total state debt is a whopping $65 billion (the total of outstanding debt, pension, and OPEB UAAL’s, unemployment trust funds, and the budget gap from recent years of deficit spending). The state’s financial picture deteriorated so much in the last few years that both major bond rating agencies sharply downgraded their ratings of Connecticut mutual bonds. In a word, Connecticut can’t afford the generosity you ask it to demonstrate.

    Third, and most fundamentally, we already have far too many young people attending college and obtaining neither a real education nor a job ticket. Why would sending even more kids to college be a good thing?

    Other than that, it’s a great idea.

  • eli1

    You repeatedly forget to emphasize one huge factor about these “undocumented”children, that they are ILLEGAL. How would you like to be a working class mother, who is an actual citizen, has paid taxes, and has otherwise done everything the right way, whose child is denied admission and in-state tuition in favor of an illegal alien? There is already an entitlement problem, why extend this problem even further to people currently breaking the law? I will have no respect for these people until they get in the back of the line and go through the normal channels for citizenship, just like everyone else has to do to become a legal immigrant in this country.

  • Andreology

    We can’t afford it. The best gift we can give the the poor is a vibrant economy with lots of jobs, and this does not come from more spending on the part of the government. Connecticut taxes are already too high in comparison with states like North Carolina, Texas, and Florida, and our economy is stagnant compared with these states. What good does it do for Connecticut to pay for people to go to college if there are no jobs for them when they graduate? First things first.

  • 11

    This isn’t proposing that anyone be denied admission in favor of an undocumented student. It’s proposing that undocumented students living in CT who are admitted to CT state colleges irrespective of their citizenship status be able to pay in-state tuition rates.

    Do you really think it’s a good idea to have policies that force smart, poor kids to remain uneducated? Really???

    I would suggest reading the article in the most recent issue of The New Journal that documents the experience of one such student at Yale. She has a Yale degree, and is now forced to work in fast food restaurants because she can’t obtain citizenship. Why anyone would think this makes sense, I’m not sure.

  • graduate_student

    >You repeatedly forget to emphasize one huge factor about these “undocumented”children, that they are ILLEGAL

    The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son.

  • je11

    It sounds like you are saying that I can illegally cross the border of any country, and start demanding reduced tuition and free government services. That’s absurd.
    And for those who say it’s not the children’s fault – the parents knew what they were doing when they brought them here. They should figure out a way to pay for their children’s education, and not demand government services they aren’t entitled to. Besides, our government can’t afford it.

  • phantomllama

    Rewards for illegal immigration. Yeah, that’ll keep the numbers down…

  • ignatz

    If the 3 authors think it’s so important to help young illegals get a break on college tuition, then I encourage them to launch a new non-profit dedicated to that goal and devote their own time and money to fund-raising for their cause. More power to them! But they need to stop treating my tax dollars as their own property. Why must liberals always make someone ELSE pay for their grandiose visions?

  • glibmonster

    I don’t know if this is a financial issue as much as it is a moral one. As other commentators have already noted, Rubin, Hobbes, and Lykken are essentially proposing that we ignore a crime that has been committed against all of us. Even if these young students weren’t responsible for coming to this country illegally, they have since become aware of their own status and, indeed, their crime. If someone gives me a TV that I later learn was stolen, I have a responsibility to turn over the stolen property to the police. I sympathize with the tough position of these kids, but we shouldn’t reward them for flouting the law.