South Carolina Legislature Passes Ban on Undocumented Students’ Attending Colleges

By Mary Ann Zehr — June 02, 2008 2 min read
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The immigration reform bill approved by South Carolina lawmakers last week would, if signed by South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, bar undocumented students from attending state colleges and universities. State officials in Arkansas and North Carolina have recently announced policies that will make it much harder for undocumented immigrants to get a higher education in their states.

Phil Lenski, a staff attorney for the Senate Judiciary Committee in South Carolina, told me over the phone on Friday that South Carolina legislators have been discussing the possibility of banning undocumented students from state colleges and universities since 2007. The provision contained in the immigration plan that they approved on May 29 (it is contained in an amendment to H 4400, which can be found with a search here) says that undocumented students can’t be admitted and also says they can’t get state financial aid. Mr. Lenski said the governor has until June 5 to sign the bill and has indicated he will do so.

Mr. Lenski added that Sen. Glenn F. McConnell, a Republican and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sponsored the immigration plan because he’s found that most of his constituents “don’t support the expenditure of public funds on illegal immigrants.”

I first heard about passage of the bill from William Gheen, the president and founder of Americans for Legal Immigration, in Raleigh, N.C., through a press release. He contends that any publicly funded benefits, such as opportunities for higher education, help to boost illegal immigration because they are a “magnet” that helps to attract undocumented people to come to the United States. He argues that the admittance of undocumented students to colleges and universities also provides unfair competition for American citizens hoping to attend those same institutions “once many universities apply their affirmative action policies.”

I often come across educators, however, who argue that the talents of undocumented youths are wasted if they don’t have access to higher education in this country, and that they should be able to gain admission. An undocumented student who attended the University of California, Davis, has made a video on You Tube telling why she wants to continue going to college in the United States. “For me, going back [to Mexico] is like giving up on your dream,” she says.

Read more about the South Carolina immigration bill in a May 30 article published in The Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C.

See earlier posts reporting on new policies concerning undocumented students in higher education here and here.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.