Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Immigration Law and Higher Education

Protests have spread across the country in response to proposed immigration legislation currently pending in congress. This bill and related legislation would have dramatic impacts on higher education, including revoking funding for universities who admit undocumented students, making it a felony to overstay a student visa, and making it more difficult to adjust status from student to immigrant. This legislation would even make it possible to prosecute foreign students who do not maintain the legally mandated course load (something which we all know happens at NYU because of bureaucratic snafus every semester). Finally, any American citizen who is found "guilty" of helping an undocumented migrant could also be found guilty of a felony--even if the assistance was purely humanitarian (and since we don't often ask for proof of citizenship before offering food, first aid, or helpful conversation, there is a good chance this provision could turn into a restriction on helping anyone who looks or sounds Latino/a or Asian).

Let's just imagine the impact this will have on higher education. Students without documents, even those who spent most of their lives in the United States, will no longer be able to attend college--even at the inflated tuition rates many now pay. International students in the U.S. on student visas would have to worry about being imprisoned on felony charges and later deported merely for taking one credit too few or for needing an extra semester to finish a dissertation while the bureaucratic wheels turn in the INS. American students, faculty, and staff who help out by providing a couch or a warm meal to their visa-overstay friends could get thrown in the brig too. It seems to me that this legislation would either cause the number of international students seeking an education in the United States to fall precipitously (making their own educations and those of their classmates suffer), or else will result in a dampening of intellectual curiosity among international students as they rush to get their degree as quickly as possible to as to avoid these draconian penalities.

Riled up yet? There are protests in towns and cities across the U.S. for you to join. In New York, you can join New York City public school students as they walk out of class at Noon on Monday, April 10th, meet in Union Square from Noon until 2, and rally at City Hall from 3 to 7. The organizers ask that attendies where white to show their solidarity and encourage students to wear signs saying "A10" during the morning before the walkout to show their intent to participate.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually NYU OISS does a pretty good job to make sure international students get registered, maintain their matriculation status, etc. They usually contact studends and departments if things are looking iffy with your course work. As things are now they have to report you to Homeland Security (INS doesn't control foreign documentation or visa status anymore) if you're not registered or maintaining the course load, so I wouldn't write so lightly that "it happens at NYU all the time"

4/06/2006 12:30 AM  
Blogger Bread and Roses said...

Nerds actually know of a number of instinces where international students have left the country for the summer and been denied permission to re-enter in time for the semester to start because their department has "forgotten" to do some minor bureaucratic task. This is not a complaint against OISS, which may do an excellent job. It is a complaint against the law, which would leave international students even more vulnerable to the vageries of their departmental administrative assistants.

4/06/2006 12:11 PM  

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