On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of senators known as the Gang of Eight proposed legislation that would provide a path to provisional legal status for undocumented immigrants, one step on a road to citizenship. While the conservative base is still wary of granting amnesty to immigrants it considers lawbreakers, the exodus of Latino voters from the Republican base throughout 2012 has engendered softer public rhetoric from the right as evident in this bill. It has become even more critical for the nation to address the millions of undocumented immigrants within its borders and the xenophobic tensions provoked by the southern border fence. As the parameters of the immigration debate shift, we hope to see more progressive, humanizing policies benefiting the Providence community and the University.
Under the new proposal, undocumented immigrants who came to the country prior to Dec. 31, 2011 and stayed continuously could attain legal status within six months, though they would still have to wait a decade or longer for full citizenship rights. This includes an exclusion from federal benefits until they attain full citizenship, a significant clause given that most undocumented workers participate in unorganized forms of labor.
There is no more room for hesitation on immigration issues on the national scale. The demographics of the country are changing too rapidly and too sizably, and both sides of the spectrum have begun to account for this shift. Not too long ago, deportation was as widely talked about as amnesty was. Soon it may be anathema for politicians, both those on the left and right, to take a hard stance on closed borders in a national election.
The Gang of Eight’s legislation will have far-reaching effects, especially at the local level. The continued growth of immigrant groups in the country — especially Asians and Latinos — has made an immediate mark on American culture and has created seismic shifts in national political representation. Here in Providence the national trend has prevailed, as the influx of Latino voters transformed city politics by helping to elect the city’s first Hispanic mayor, Angel Taveras. Currently, only three of the top 20 cities in the country have mayors of Latino or Asian descent, but both ethinic groups are becoming more influential and are being heavily courted by both parties.
For the University, the legislation reflects the importance of the future of diversity and student aid. On March 21, after requests from the Brown Immigrant Rights Coalition, the Office of Financial Aid elucidated its policy for undocumented immigrants, which revealed that undocumented students have been eligible for financial aid for at least seven years. While we presume the University had no reason to hide such important information, we question how many potential undocumented students have turned away from the University due to its history of amguity regarding financial aid for these students. In addition, undocumented students are admitted through a need-aware process, a caveat exclusive to this subset of the domestic student applicant pool. In light of the new legislation, the University’s need-aware policy should be seen as restrictive and backwards, given the rapidly shifting and changing socio-political climate.
We commend the University for not barring undocumented students on the basis that citizenship should not determine educational opportunities. At the same time, undocumented students still stand in a nebulous space between foreign and domestic applicants. We hope a separate need-aware policy for undocumented students will soon seem antiquated as the nation moves towards embracing the newest wave of Americans.
Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editor, Dan Jeon, and its members, Mintaka Angell, Samuel Choi, Nicholas Morley and Rachel Occhiogrosso. Send comments to email@example.com.