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Higher education in Alabama is hobbled by harsh immigration policy

Joel Goode, Opinion Editor

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Alabama has an unfortunate reputation for neglecting the bipartisan values of education.

The state passed H.B. 56, an anti-immigration bill that sought to crack down on the rights of undocumented immigrants, including their right to public education after high school, in 2011.

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who supported the bill, was nominated to the position of Attorney General of the United States this February.

The provision is not the only legacy of the new administration that has a direct effect on international students here at the University of South Alabama.

Shortly before Sessions’ appointment as Attorney General, President Donald Trump issued an executive order which placed a travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries including Iran, Iraq, and Syria.

The most significant reason for anti-immigration policy and rhetoric is the belief that support for undocumented immigrants is tantamount to removing scholarship and employment opportunities from law-abiding American citizens.

A study published by the Georgetown Public Policy Institute showed that by 2020, 65 percent of jobs in the United States will require a postsecondary degree or training beyond a high school education.

While many lawmakers believe the privilege of being competitive in the workforce should be reserved for documented citizens, there are in fact other avenues to curb the problem of school and job displacement besides further disempowering the most vulnerable members of our communities.

For example, policies which prevent outsourcing and expand funding for resources to institutions of higher education can directly curb the problem of school and work displacement.  

Nevertheless, Trump nominated Betsy Devos, who supports cuts to federal financial aid, for Secretary of Education. Trump also originally nominated Andrew Puzder, a CEO who specialized in outsourcing, for Secretary of Labor, according to Fox Business.

The reason for barring undocumented immigrants from higher education is not to provide more opportunities for American citizens, but rather to create an underclass that can be blamed for the economic problems caused by subsidies for corporations that practice outsourcing.

The recognition of the undocumented immigrant as a criminalized scapegoat has drawn bipartisan concern.

In 2013 the conservative group Hispanic Leadership Network issued a memo urging fellow Republicans to stop using the phrase “illegal immigrant” and opt for “undocumented immigrant” when referring to immigrants living in the U.S without documentation, according to NPR. Their concern was that the phrase “illegal immigrant” was dehumanizing and disingenuous to the complex circumstances which have led millions of people to become undocumented residents of the U.S.

In his “Immigration Handbook for the New Republican Majority” published in 2015, then-Sen. Sessions explained the motivation behind anti-immigration policy.

Sessions said that the problems faced by undocumented immigrants are secondary to the concerns of immigrants who obtained visas from the Department of State before coming into the U.S.

“[Immigration reform] has become a legislative honorific almost exclusively reserved for proposals which benefit everyone but actual American citizens,” said Sessions.

Many South students have family members who are undocumented immigrants. Other students are themselves nationals from the countries which have been subjected to the travel ban by the Trump administration of which Sessions is now a part.

The implication that people with undocumented family members do not possess the concerns of “actual American citizens” belies a lack of care for the effects of anti-immigration policy, and for the impetus for reform.

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The student news site of The University of South Alabama
Higher education in Alabama is hobbled by harsh immigration policy