Undocumented and Unafraid, Republicans and Unafraid

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Editorial, Opinion

Undocumented and Unafraid, Republicans and Unafraid

By Emanuela Palmares

Under current Connecticut law, undocumented students pay in-state tuition rates into the institutional aid fund at Connecticut colleges, but are unable to access those funds to help them lower the cost of their education. Without the ability to access federal loans and scholarships, these students pay the full amount of tuition.

So for a second indulge me in replacing the word “undocumented” with Latino, black, white or Asian, and do so under the light of the fact that institutional aid dollars are not taxpayer dollars. These are funds that students who pay full price to go to any of the state colleges and universities pay into.

It would simply be unacceptable. NO legislator would dare to vote against a bill that equalizes access to these students.

Because the bill had a connection to immigration, it was OK to deny access; it was OK to play federal politics in the state arena and be a member of Congress for a day.

But just as not all undocumented immigrants are criminals, not all Democrats are for fair access to higher education regardless of status, and not all Republicans are against it.

On April 25, thirteen Republicans joined 78 Democrats to pass the measure in the House of Representatives.  The bill had previously cleared the evenly divided Senate in a 30-5 vote.

Because of the unwavering fight for fairness by CT Students 4 a Dream over the past five years, the steadfast support of many Democratic legislators, combined with the collective courage of these 13 Republican state senators and 13 Republican state representatives, a fairness issue was finally resolved.

And it is only through this type of bipartisan work that focuses on the core task at hand (in this case, fairness – not immigration), that good policy for the advancement of all people can happen.

I know many of these Republican legislators will experience backlash because of their vote, but they should know that many stand with them and applaud their decision.
I, for one, a Connecticut resident and a naturalized U.S. citizen who was an undocumented Dreamer 20 years ago, personally thank them for doing something for the next generation of immigrants in our state – something that would have benefited me if only I had access to it when I was in their shoes.

And no, there is no saying, “But you did it the right way; why can’t they?” because the “right way” includes a long period of waiting, and in the waiting, you are still undocumented, you are still subject to deportation, after paying thousands of dollars in government and attorney fees. And to those who are skeptical about this truth, I suggest you consult an immigration attorney and ask.

Regardless of who I am today, I refuse to forget where I came from. It’s the blessing and the curse of being part of the “first” in my family to come to this country. The blessing is the deep sense of appreciation and gratefulness for all that America has given us that lead me to serve my community.
The curse is even though I am a proud U.S. citizen, when I see others at the beginning of their immigration journey being looked down upon, not seen or referred to as one of “our kids” or a part of “our future,” being sent ”back home to get at the back of the line,” when Connecticut is the only home they truly know, I feel for them. I see myself back when the rhetoric was directed at me during most of my teenage years.

So at a time that most undocumented immigrants considered hopeless, some Republicans channeled their inner-Lincoln in the search for fairness for all, and proved that these Dreamers’ dreams were not foolish and hope is alive and well.

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May 3, 2018

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