This letter features reporting from "Dreams Derailed" by Marcela Rodrigues and "Searching for Stability as a Migrant in Tunisia" by Audrey Thibert
Dear Governor Phil Murphy,
An enrollment ban in Alabama and South Carolina is affecting the chances of going to college for up to 500,000 undocumented immigrants. Since President Donald Trump ended the DACA program in 2017, qualified undocumented students have not had the opportunity to go to public colleges in these two states. Marcela Rodrigues writes in the article “Dreams Derailed” about Steven, a student personally affected by this ban. Learning about the state's enrollment ban left Steven feeling worried and scared. “Going to Clemson was something that motivated me,” he says. “I thought it ended my opportunity to go to college.” Steven’s only option left is to attend a private school, but he is afraid his family will not be able to afford the expensive tuition. Unfortunately, thousands of other students are experiencing the same dilemma as Steven. Many more states, such as Texas and Florida, have desires to repeal laws allowing undocumented immigrants access to public higher education. However, this ban is only one example of the growing problem of unfair treatment of undocumented immigrants. There are many other areas of life, such as work and federal systems, that undocumented immigrants do not have equal access to as citizens which makes their lives significantly harder.
I have witnessed the difficulties undocumented immigrants face first-hand as someone in my family was undocumented. The lack of access to many public institutions, such as Medicare and Social Security, causes struggles that can tear apart families, only because of their immigration status. This minority is constantly ignored and exploited. This problem is not confined to the United States, but occurs on a global scale. For example, Tunisia is undergoing an influx of immigrants who are experiencing inhumane treatment. In the article “Searching for Stability as a Migrant in Tunisia,” Audrey Thibert writes about Gift, an African migrant who left Nigeria to escape conflicts that separated her family. Gift found refuge in Tunisia, but she was met with cruel living conditions and almost no access to any type of medical care. Thousands of Nigerians are experiencing the same trauma as Gift, solely because they are migrants. Tunisia is merely one of the many examples of countries with few opportunities and high rates of abuse toward the migrant population. This story is an example of how severe this issue can get. It also shows that there is a need for countries to recognize that migrants should be treated with dignity and respect. Whether people come from an international or domestic origin, they deserve the same rights and opportunities.
Governor Murphy, your work to sign a bill that allows undocumented students to have the opportunity to not only go to college, but to receive financial aid as well, is exceptional and should be a model for other states. Many immigrants in the United States are not aware of the opportunities and rights provided to them in New Jersey. I propose that campaigns and outreach programs to boost public consciousness of this bill and spread its benefits to states that do not currently have the same options for immigrants. One example is holding programs or seminars to teach families how to sign up for in-state financial aid for college. Another example is to hold campaigns that advocate for the benefits of an educated immigrant population. By allowing in-state tuition for immigrants, states will experience higher tax-revenue and create a more developed workforce of college-educated students. Opposing states can use New Jersey as an example of how changing their laws can benefit their state. With enough advocacy, states may start changing their opinions on this issue and create opportunities, igniting a brighter future for undocumented students and families all over the country. This is a progressive and effective step toward creating an equal and accepting society for immigrants throughout the world.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Dylan Cortegana is currently a sophomore at the Morris County School of Technology in the Academy for Computer and Information Sciences. He is very passionate about computer science and current events. Outside of school, Dylan enjoys fishing with friends, tennis, and robotics. He is very grateful for the opportunity to write about the unacceptable treatment of immigrants and share his perspective.