The death of the DREAM Act in Congress last year deprived children of undocumented parents in Ohio of a benefit that is the cornerstone of upward mobility: access to education. Most of the stateís two- and four-year colleges and universities regarded undocumented young immigrants as out-of-state or international students, charging more than double the rate for in-state students.
Fortunately, the Ohio Board of Regents has decided that state schools now must charge in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants with temporary legal status. Under a federal program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, undocumented immigrants who came into the United States when under age 16 can receive two years of legal status, subject to renewal, allowing them to work and get a driverís license.
The regentsí decision will allow in-state tuition for immigrants who qualify under the federal program, provided they meet all other residency requirement under Ohio law. Thousands in the state participate in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but it is not yet clear how many will qualify for in-state tuition.
Ohio is not a pioneer in the policy. It is following the lead of about a dozen other states that have wisely recognized the contributions young immigrants can make to society if they can realize their full potential. Sadly, more must be done to smooth the way to higher education: In-state tuition in Ohio is high, and, advocates say, many immigrants cannot get federal financial aid.
The United States, particularly its large urban centers, long has benefited from the talent and energy of immigrants. Young, undocumented immigrants already are part of communities, ready to move ahead. The Ohio Board of Regents has removed a big obstacle. Thatís a hopeful sign in the midst of discouraging signals from Washington, where a comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate is bogged down in the House over objections from arch conservatives.