Thursday, December 1, 2011
Violating the 14th Amendment Today?
Hey all, it's been a while since you mostly ignored my post on Lupe Fiasco. Grr. Thanks, Daphne, for being willing to put fingers to keyboard and share on that topic.
Today, though, I'm writing about something entirely relevant to what we've studied in the past two weeks: the Fourteenth Amendment. As you know, it grants citizenship as a birthright to all Americans, it requires state laws to adhere to the Bill of Rights, and--most importantly for today--it grants equal protection of the law to all people. In other words, if the government is going to make laws that treat different groups of people differently, it had better have a good reason for doing so.
According to Linda Greenhouse, Florida is violating the equal protection clause of the Constitution. How? Florida runs a state university system. Florida charges much higher tuition to students who come from outside the state than to students who are residents of the state. That's how all states run their universities. If you go to a SUNY school, you will pay much less in tuition than a student who comes from New Jersey or Pennsylvania.
However, Florida has decided to charge the higher, out-of-state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants. These are students who were born in the United States--in Florida--so, according to the Constitution, they are American citizens and residents of Florida. But, because of their parents' immigrant status, they are being charged a higher rate.
Linda Greenhouse calls this "perhaps the most bizarre and pointless anti-immigrant policy" that she's heard of.
She continues: "Consider the difference between in-state and non-resident tuition at the University of Florida: $5,700 a year versus $27,936. The disparity is similar at the state’s community colleges, although the price tags are lower. It is the difference between a college education and none."
She is glad to hear that some students have decided to sue to overturn this policy: "The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status on behalf of 'all past, present, and future United States citizens' affected by the policy, names five individual plaintiffs. Two were forced for financial reasons to withdraw from Miami Dade College when the policy took effect. Two others can’t afford to take all the credits necessary to complete their degrees on time, and one, who would have received a full scholarship as a resident, couldn’t afford to enroll at all. Four were born in Miami and one in Los Angeles. All are eligible to be president of the United States."
What are your reactions to this policy? Are you surprised that it exists? What should be done about it? Is there anything that you can or should do to deal with this policy?