Immigration rules boost tuition for UAFS student

story by Ryan Saylor

Supporters of the Dream Act, which would provide a legal framework toward citizenship for undocumented students, were in Fort Smith on Monday (Jan. 28) to speak to members of the League of Women Voters.

Mireya Reith, executive director of Arkansas United Community Coalition, said passage of the Dream Act, first proposed in the Senate in 2001, was essential to providing students of all legal status an equal education.

"It's a piece of legislation and an effort that really ensures equality for all of our students here in Arkansas," she said.

Reith said there were more than 9,000 students in Arkansas who would be impacted by passage of the Dream Act. Proposed federal legislation could provide a pathway for students to stay in the United States legally, she said.

But legislation would also be necessary at the state level to ensure students who graduated from Arkansas high schools could attend Arkansas colleges and universities without paying out-of-state tuition, Reith added.

"A policy was put in place here in Arkansas (in 2008) that forced the universities to verify the status of individuals and only accept a valid social security number when looking at individual's applications and specifically whether they would be eligible for in-state tuition," she said.

Lidia Mondragon, a junior pre-med biology major at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, was salutatorian of her class when she graduated from Waldron High School. She is among the more than 9,000 undocumented students across Arkansas paying higher tuition even though they graduated from Arkansas high schools.

Mondragon said tuition for a typical student would pay a total of $25,000 in tuition for a four-year degree at UAFS. But for a single semester at UAFS, she said it costs her family nearly $10,000.

"My parents work 12 hours a day, seven days a week to pay for my college," she said through tears as she explained that she was going to school with a goal of one day becoming a doctor.

According to a preliminary draft of the legislation by Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, titled "The Postsecondary Education and Economic Development Act of 2013", students such as Mondragon who have lived most of their lives in Arkansas, shown academic ability and have graduated from an Arkansas high school would be able to attend state schools paying in-state tuition versus the out-of-state rate currently charged to undocumented students should the bill pass both houses of the state legislature and be signed into law by Gov. Mike Beebe.

Reith said she expects the bill to be filed sometime in February with bipartisan support.

"We believe there is bipartisan support," she said. "Part of the delay is to cultivate those co-sponsors."

But some Republicans are not showing support for the proposed bill.

Clint Reed, former executive director of the Arkansas Republican Party and a partner at Impact Management Group in Little Rock, said providing in-state tuition to undocumented students should not happen without an immigration solution at the federal level, such as new legislation proposed today by Republican U.S. Sens. John McCain and Marco Rubio that would provide a pathway to legal status without leaving the country.

"I'm not saying they should never have the possibility to receive those benefits, I'm just saying they should go through the federal system first," Reed said.

Reed said he believes the Republican Party must become more inclusive of immigrants in order to continue to grow locally and nationally, but he said the party should not get behind passage of legislation such as Elliott's proposed bill.

"I'm not in support of (the bill)," he said. "Generally speaking, how do we get comprehensive immigration reform done in a compassionate way without saying we're just going to spend tax dollars, which is how I view Sen. Elliott's bill."


Mondragon has said regardless of what comes of the proposed Arkansas legislation, should she be successful in her pursuit of becoming a doctor, she will still be unable to work legally in the country she has called home since the age of seven without passage of the Dream Act or other comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level.

And returning to her home country of Mexico is not an option, she said.

"I do not remember my home country," Mondragon said. "[I've] grown up here. This is home now."

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I was born in Arkansas 64 years ago to American citizens and have worked 12 hour days most of the last 40 years. So if you are illegal it is OK to give my tax dollars for an illegal to go to college? I don't think so! It is a shame that an illegal as the same rights. They need to earn the right to go to college by paying their fair share of taxes. Do you think it is fair that person that as been in this country a few years should have the same rights as I? 40 plus years of paying taxes vs a fews years?


Short answer Citizen is yes. You are a geezer and the future is in these kids in whom we need to invest.

The Observer

Short answer is NO. Why can't the future be in American born kids with legal American citizens?

Either/Or or Both

America's future depends upon the best and the brightest wanting to stay here as proud Americans, naturalized or otherwise. A future of American born crack babies and ignorant hillbillies is unacceptable. George Bush,Sr. warned us of the dumbing-down of America. Whether he came to that conclusion observing his son George, another topic for discussion. Suffice it to say that the senior President Bush had a premonition about our nation's human capital. His wisdom would support a smarter America whichever way it can be achieved. Maybe we ought to trade lazy, dumb and/or criminal natural born Americans for hard working, educable, intact families from south of the border.....You know, just the opposite of what Fidel Castro did years ago when he sent criminals and mentally ill Cubans to Florida! Es igual!

Undocumented Immigrant Workers pay taxes also...

...and most won't collect any benefits from it when they return to their country of origin. So who benefits, you do Mr. Citizen. If the "illegals" were to collect income tax entitlements, then you would have been paying more taxes in each of your paychecks for the past forty years. You were healthy enough to work all those years. Would you begrudge entitlement benefits to an American citizen disabled after only two years in the workforce? What if it happened to be you or your loved ones?

"...when they return to their

"...when they return to their country of origin." What makes you think they are all going to return to their country of origin? Why would they when they can get every benefit under the sun here? They avoid paying taxes, get free health care, then want the taxpayers to pay for their college. Wow. Really? And I'm not even a geezer.

Earned? Absolutely qualified is more like it.

So what are you gonna do, keep smart people out and put stupid people into higher education. Let's face it, we are not all created equal. Some of us are stronger, some weaker, some smart, some not so smart. We are all God's children, if you believe in God. If you believe only in yourself, then your reasoning makes sense if I were you.....but I am not you.

Lets don't make them grovel..

Their parents are working, paying taxes in the state and we've knowingly let them do that yet after decades we won't give their children the same benefits in education? Ridiculous and also Sen Elliot does that mean they have to show more academic ability to get the same?

Read other article

Did no one here not read the article the other day "Rockfeller report:Immigrants help state economy" In it it states: “On a per capita basis, immigrants’ contributions ($16,300) exceeded the fiscal cost of essential services ($2,300) by $13,900. That is, immigrants generated $7 in business revenue and tax contributions for every $1 the state spent on services to immigrant households — K–12 education, health-care, and corrections — in 2010,” according to the report’s summary. So there it is- Why should any child be punished for what their parents did. yes, what their parents did was wrong- I have heard people say- ship them all back- well, these children know no other place than here- They graduate from our high schools and then are stuck, wanting to go to college but cannot afford it. If they are going to live here don't you want them to be productive citizens??


The parents have and are currently breaking the law. That is a crime; we are helping criminals. Also I'd like to know if Lidia is on any type of scholarship; if she is receiving one or multiple ones then what American citizen was not given one b/c she rceived it. How many brothers and sisters does she have and how many of them do we already support and will we have to contninue to support. If we went to Mexico or other S American coutnries and tried to get a job, we would be denied b/c we aren't citizens. I understand that we need to help illegal immigrants, but do we need to do that by sacrificing what we do for American citizens. Let solve the Amerian problem, then we'd help the immigrants. Help them become legal immigrants and then help her out. Make it a lot easier to become an American citizen and then we wouldn't have this problem.

thr answer is no

Ma'am we do not receive any scholarships I worked hard graduated with a 4.0 and an ACT score of 27 but I couldn't get a scholarship at any school my parents have. To pay every cent of the $10,000 I pay each semester and my parents do pay taxes and have paid every single medical bill they have.

Lidia, Keep Working Hard

Don't let Citizen or anyone else deter you from reaching your goal. It is too bad that lots of young Americans take all of their freedoms and advantages for granted and they don't choose to work hard to achieve greatness. You should ignore all of the hate-filled responses and continue to make your parents proud.

Illegal vs Undocumented, Willing to Work Technicality

Let's put bigotry aside for a moment. Where there are jobs which citizens wont' do, let undocumented(papers expired)immigrants do it. Where there are slots to fill for the best and brightest and most studious, fill those slots with qualified inhabitants of this country. Stupidity should not be excused just because you are an American citizen. Raise the bar and cultivate the intellect within our borders regardless of how that intellect arrived here. Last but not least. Critics of undocumented workers and their children are hypocritical when these same critics enjoy the fruits of the "illegal" labor disproportionately to their own labor. The illegal/undocumented crisis is due to bureaucratic inertia. Even if imigration enforcement was perfect, the economy would still be dependent upon those at the bottom who toil daily and their numbers would most likely increase. BTW, the numbers of immigrants in the USA is close to the numbers at the beginning of the 1900's. With a larger general population nationwide currently, proportionally there are fewer immigrants then in the past. So the problem is hyped to distract with a scapegoat. It is a political football.

What is the penalty

So let ask a question. What is the penalty for breaking the law? Reward with a free college education!

Repeal immigration prohibitions now

Let's find something else to Wall Street Bankers who have screwed-up the world so bad that if this was the early 1900's they would have been responsible for a global depression and world war. Illegal workers pay into entitlement taxes and forfeit those entitlements by being undocumented. So it is a windfall for Americans who receive benefits by cheating the undocumented worker.....So call it even.....2 wrongs make a right!