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Bishops support in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants

Posted By August 26, 2011 | 5:34 pm | Local

The Massachusetts Catholic Conference has endorsed legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants the opportunity to pay in-state tuition at Massachusetts state colleges if they meet certain conditions.
In a letter to state Sen. Michael G. Moore and state Rep. Tom Sannicandro, co-chairmen of the joint legislative committee on higher education, James F. Driscoll, executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, urged the joint committee report favorably on House bill 2109 and Senate bill 566. The MCC is the public policy office of the Roman Catholic bishops of Massachusetts.
In a cover letter accompanying the MCC letter to the co-chairmen, Mr. Driscoll said the proposed legislation “does not provide free tuition, financial aid, scholarships or loans. It allows students who have attended a Massachusetts  high school for three years and graduated or received a GED to pay the same in-state tuition as their peers.”
In his letter to the co-chairmen, Mr. Driscoll wrote that the two bills would  “make the college experience possible for more Massachusetts high school graduates by providing the same hopes and dreams to those young adults currently excluded from certain benefits due to their immigration status.
“Children, even if they lack certain documents, should  be offered ‘in-state tuition’ alongside their peers if they earn acceptance into a state college after studying for three or more years at a Massachusetts high school. This policy would encourage all youth to do well in school, model culturally competent leadership and benefit the entire Commonwealth in many ways.”
He said passage of the legislation could mean “empty seats on college campuses could be filled, resulting in new revenue and increased talent.
“Youth would be encouraged to make choices that enhance their dignity and the common good.
“Every child has a unique purpose; making higher education possible supports the development of those irreplaceable skills and qualities.
“‘In-state tuition’ has reduced drop-out rates in other states and could do the same here.
“Greater diversity on college campuses would benefit all students in Massachusetts.
“The current structure that prohibits ‘in-state tuition’ appear to target and isolate a marginalized community (undocumented youth). This legislation seeks to end that unjust discrimination.
“Across the Commonwealth, many educators and religious leaders build bridges between diverse communities, nurture the hopes and dreams of students and work hard to create a just society. House 2109 and Senate 566 provide the legislation to do the same. This legislation embraces and models justice for all.
“On behalf of the Conference, I urge you to report favorably on these two bills and hope to work with you to assure their passage before the full legislature,” Mr. Driscoll wrote.
The bishops “are fully supporting this state legislation.” They are Bishop McManus, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston; Bishop George W. Coleman of Fall River and Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell of Springfield.