Closing the Schoolhouse Door

Undocumented Immigrants Reel After CUNY Hikes Tuitions

Not everyone favors the bill, however. Jack Martin, a spokesperson for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, says the bill and its Texas and California counterparts go against the intent of the federal law. "They're asking for trouble down the line, because at some point a citizens' group will insist that their tax dollars not be spent in that way," he says.

Senator Padavan agrees. "I have introduced and am working to pass legislation that will ban illegal immigrants from attending publicly supported colleges and universities," he wrote in a recent newsletter to his constituency. "The Board of Trustees can't even really say how many undocumented aliens are enrolled at CUNY. Considering recent events, that's not only absurd, it's a matter of national security."

Student Friedman links these statements to the recent attacks on constitutional rights. "This is about paranoia," she says. "It happened right after September 11. They did not have to do anything—they say it's because of this bill from 1996, but if that were true, they would have done it in '96. Somebody crashed into the World Trade Center towers and now everybody's paying for it."

Students, faculty, and rights groups have held demonstrations, including a hunger strike, to oppose the hikes.
photo: Cary Conover
Students, faculty, and rights groups have held demonstrations, including a hunger strike, to oppose the hikes.

Schaffer acknowledges that the policy will force some students from school. "We realize that there will be some impact, and we regret it. But that doesn't change our legal obligation," he says.

Padavan thinks that these students should just try to study legally. "When my grandparents arrived here at the turn of the century, they followed the law," he says. "They came through Ellis Island and were processed like hundreds of thousands of others. Why should there be two standards? I bet if you asked a lot of students if they've applied for student visas, they'd say no. Why not? They're not above the law."

Friedman strongly disagrees. "It took my mother 11 years to get her citizenship. In that amount of time, you could go to college and get a master's and be a CEO of a company!" she says. "They say immigrants are ignorant or illiterate, but if we are it's because they make us that way with these policies."

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