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Editorial | Patrick’s immigration reform is sound policy

Published: Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 08:11

 

Governor Deval Patrick made a laudable decision this week to offer the in-state tuition rate provided at public universities to Massachusetts residents to young undocumented immigrants in the state who obtain federal work permits.

Patrick’s decision was first made public by an article in Sunday’s Boston Globe, titled “Mass. to widen tuition breaks at state colleges,” and then was confirmed yesterday by the governor himself.  From the State House, Patrick told reporters yesterday that he has directed the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education to enact the policy immediately, providing crucial economic relief for undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts seeking an equal opportunity to earn a college degree. The in-state tuition rate reduces the cost of attending a public university in Massachusetts significantly. At University of Massachusetts Amherst, for example, a non-resident pays $26, 645 annually, while a resident pays $13,230, according to statistics from the State Education Secretary.

The new Massachusetts policy follows in the footsteps of recent changes at the Federal level. The Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program allows children of unauthorized immigrants brought to the United States to have their deportations deferred while the government determines how it will, or if it will, reform its immigration policy.

The governor is right to call his new policy “a step in the right direction,” as he did yesterday while talking to reporters from the State House.

Still, the decision is not without controversy. Steve Kropper, co-chairman of Massachusetts Citizens for Immigration Reform, told the Globe on Sunday that the policy is “bad for the country” because it takes the focus away from American citizens facing poverty in the face of college costs. Other critics have decried Patrick’s move as having side-stepped the state legislature.

Yet the Governor’s decision makes sense on a number of levels. It is sound economic policy and fits into the American ideal of expanding opportunity for everyone, including immigrants from Latin America, who according to Sunday’s article in the Globe comprise 80 percent of applicants to Obama’s deterred-action program. According to U.S. Census information from 2002-2007 cited in a Forbes article published in 2011, Latino-owned businesses are expected to increase their total revenue contribution to the economy by eight percent annually over the 10 years from 2005 to 2015. Providing more immigrants from Latin America with an affordable route to a college education will only further this economic growth, and puts Massachusetts at the forefront of immigration reform nationwide.

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