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ACLU: High school reinstates soccer team

Posted April 6th, 2011 in Uncategorized by steve

For some students, playing on a sports team can make the difference between success and failure in school.   It can be the one thing that keeps them coming to school each day, motivates them to keep their grades up, or connects them to a caring adult in the building.

So, when a school cuts sports opportunities for any of its students, it’s unfortunate.  When a school cuts opportunities for students who are already underrepresented in sports and activities, or otherwise disadvantaged, the consequences can be significant and it can raise potential civil rights issues.

That’s why the ACLU-WA intervened on behalf of families in Okanagon County when it learned of school district plans to eliminate its entire boys’ soccer program which is 80% – 90% Hispanic, without making a single budget cut to its other major sports such as football, basketball and baseball, which are over 90% white. The soccer program, which plays in the spring, is the least expensive per student of the major sports and results in the greatest number of scholarship opportunities for students in this school district.

However, the demographics of this community suggest that the parents of many of the soccer players are recent immigrants or migrant workers and less likely to be experienced or comfortable advocating with the school board on behalf of their sons’ team.  Moreover, for many of these students, playing on the soccer team is their only connection to school outside the classroom.  For these students, as for many others, playing on a school team can result in better grades, better college and career opportunities, lower rates of drug and alcohol abuse, and fewer discipline problems at school.

The ACLU-WA contacted the school district and explained the issues of fairness and discrimination that are raised by eliminating the only sport that attracts Hispanic students.   At its most recent school board meeting, the district voted to reinstate the boys’ soccer team.

School districts throughout the state are struggling in these tough economic times and having to make difficult budget decisions, including trimming their athletic programs.   Instead of cutting entire programs or teams, many schools have wisely and creatively found ways to reduce costs across their entire athletic programs and generate new sports revenues without cutting any teams.  For examples and suggestions on how to maintains sports in tough economic times, check out this article by the Women’s Sports Foundation.

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Posted March 18th, 2011 in Uncategorized by steve


The Senate education committee Thursday afternoon passed a bill that would allow Oregon students brought to the country illegally to pay in-state tuition.

Senate Bill 742 would allow undocumented high school seniors who’ve lived in Oregon the last three years to pay in-state tuition at the state’s seven public universities. They now must pay out-of-state tuition, which is three times higher and a barrier to most of them.

Sen. Larry George, R- Sherwood, cast the only vote against the measure. He said the proposal addresses a compelling justice issue, but he is concerned it would cost the state money.

“We are cutting school days, we can’t fund full-day kindergarten,” he said, “and then we’re passing something that will put an additional burden on the higher education system.”

Sen. Frank Morse, R-Albany, said he could not hold children responsible for being brought to this country illegally by their parents. It is in the interest of the state to let undocumented youth “improve our country by improving their lives,” he said. “For me it is an issue of what will make Oregon better.”

Sen. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Beaverton, said if the students are charged out-of-state tuition, they won’t go to college, and the state will lose out on their contributions to society and the economy.

Before passing the bill Thursday, the Senate committee approved two amendments to it. One would require undocumented students seeking in-state tuition to sign an affidavit saying they have filed or will file an application for citizenship. The other requires them to have been in the country five years and in Oregon the last three.

The vote was met with a smattering of applause from some in the audience, glares of outrage from others.

“We have a pathetic bunch of people in charge,” fumed Mary Mayer, of Beaverton, who watched the vote. She was angry that Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, chair of the committee, didn’t allow public testimony. She said opponents to the bill have been ignored.

“These are people here illegally,” Mayer said. “The government has not kept these people out of our country. Now they’re saying Oregon taxpayers are going to pay for them.”

Hass noted after the meeting that in an emotional two-hour public hearing two weeks ago, the committee gave everyone interested in speaking a chance to do so. Opponents at that hearingargued the bill would reward students breaking the law at the expense of Americans here legally.

Vicki Falcon, a senior education major at Western Oregon University, said after the Thursday vote that she knows lots of young students who would be able to attend college if they could pay the less expensive in-state tuition.

“A lot of them are really intelligent,” Falcon said. “They’re part of the community. Why not be contributing to it?”

A study of Washington State, where the policy is in effect, suggests the lower tuition would draw only a handful of undocumented students, George Pernsteiner, chancellor of the Oregon University System, told the state board this month.

It would result in a “slight positive impact on the university system’s bottom line,” he said. “No one campus would serve more than 15 more students in the next four years.”

A majority of Oregon’s undocumented youth lives in low-income, Latino homes. They find it a challenge to pay resident tuition and fees, which now average $7,100 for undergraduates at the seven state campuses, university officials say. Out-of-state tuition, which is about three times that, would be out of reach, they say. University of Oregon tuition and fees total $8,190 for residents and $25,830 for students from out of state.

The bill, which heads next to a vote on the Senate floor, has support from business groups, university presidents and the State Board of Higher Education.

– Bill Graves and Harry Esteve

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Honor Student Faces Deportation

Posted March 14th, 2011 in Uncategorized by steve

Vidal Tapia is by all accounts International High School’s brightest prospect. A teacher-described “pillar of strength” at the Paterson school, he carries a 4.0 GPA, a National Honor Society membership and a slew of community service hours. He was tapped as his class’s valedictorian to give the commencement address in June. Eventually, he wants to work for NASA.

But his plans might fall short of even graduation, not because of any academic problems, but rather an immigration snare. By next week, the 19-year-old senior could be sent back to his native Mexico, barred from returning to the United States for a decade.

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A Texan Fights for Immigrants

Posted March 6th, 2011 in Uncategorized by steve

DALLAS — The calls from Malaysia come in daily to Ralph Isenberg, a Texas businessman who has become an unorthodox advocate for immigrants in extreme distress.

From the office of his commercial real estate company here, Mr. Isenberg confers by webcam with Saad Nabeel, a college student who once lived in Texas but now calls from Kuala Lumpur.

Mr. Nabeel’s mood shifts from hopeful cheer to reeling despair. And Mr. Isenberg reassures him, time and again, that despite the daunting odds, he will one day return to live in the United States.

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California’s Dream Act

Posted February 18th, 2011 in Uncategorized by steve

From the San Jose Mercury:

State Assemblymen Gil Cedillo and Luis Alejo are trying to find the elusive answer to a question posed by poet Langston Hughes: “What happens to a dream deferred?”

Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, has introduced the California Dream Act, which would give undocumented students access to financial aid, three times in the state Legislature. It has passed three times, and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it all three times.

In January, Cedillo, along with principal co-author Alejo, D-Watsonville, announced he would bring a new incarnation of the bill to the Assembly floor this session. Alejo, a freshman assemblyman, has thrown his support behind the bill after meeting numerous undocumented immigrants over the years who were excellent students but did not have the means to attend college, he said.

While some state law makers hope the Dream Act, in the words of Hughes, dries up “like a raisin in the sun,” proponents are encouraged by Gov. Jerry Brown’s comments supporting the bill during his 2010 campaign.

“There are only so many dollars going into education,” said state Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, who is on the Senate Committee for Education. “To fund those here illegally at the cost of those here legally is not good policy.”

The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that every year 65,000 undocumented students graduate from U.S. high schools, and 40 percent, 26,000, of those are in California. While California’s Latino population is at the forefront of the debate, students from Asia and the Pacific Islands make up 40 percent of the U.S. undocumented student population, according to the Asian Pacific Coalition at UCLA.

“There is money. Thousands of dollars in Cal Grants are not being utilized by students every year,” Alejo said. “We have a whole initiative going on right now to promote Cal Grants so more students will apply.”

Huff is not swayed by Cedillo’s strategy of splitting the bill into two portions – one providing access to privately administered aid and the other to state-funded Cal Grants – saying there is a finite amount of money to go around, especially with large cuts to higher education looming.

Facing a $25.4 billion state budget deficit, Brown has suggested cutting $500 million each from UC and CSU, and $400 million from community colleges.

“We would have to create thousands of new jobs to support the expenditures from this bill, so even if you agree with the principal it doesn’t make budgetary sense,” Huff said.

To qualify for the Dream Act students must file for AB 540 status, the 2001 bill that offered in-state tuition to undocumented students, children of military personnel and others who attended California high schools for at least three years. Under the law, undocumented immigrants must agree to apply for legal status as soon as they are eligible.

“These are smart, hard working kids on a path to naturalization,” said state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, who is on the education committee. “It’s a simple question for me. Do I want them in the classroom, or do I want them hanging out on a street corner?”

UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal says undocumented students, many of whom were brought to the country at a young age by family, are “an innocent group of people who work very hard,” and would like the prohibitions lifted.

“The universities need the right to raise money for these students. That’s the easiest thing to have happen. The regents could approve that,” he said. “Second is to allow some of our return to aid money – we hold back a third of paid tuition to use for students who can’t afford tuition – to be used for these students. And the third thing is to make those students eligible for Cal Grants. The California Dream Act would accomplish that.”

If approved, California would be the third state to offer financial aid to undocumented students after Texas and New Mexico.

All of the legislators interviewed agreed the federal government must work on comprehensive immigration reform, so states do not continue with piecemeal initiatives.



The state legislation has been previously proposed by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, three times. The current incarnation is split into two bills, AB 130 and AB 131. The first bill would allow students who meet the in-state tuition requirements to apply for and receive specified financial aid administered by California’s public colleges and universities. The types of aid these students would be eligible for include: Board of Governors Fee Waiver and Institutional Student Aid, a student aid program administered by the attending college or university. The second bill would allow students who meet the in-state tuition requirements to apply for and receive Cal Grants.

SOURCE: California State Legislature,

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Oregon’s New In-State Tuition Bill for Undocumented Students

Posted February 18th, 2011 in Uncategorized by steve

From the Willamette Week:

A Democratic and a Republican state legislator have introduced a tuition equity bill that would give in-state college tuition to undocumented Oregon students.

Rep. Michael Dembrow (D-Portland) and Sen. Frank Morse (R-Albany), along with theOregon Student Association and CAUSA, were all present today at the state Capitol to announce the bill, which would apply to all public Oregon universities.

Morse described the bill as “doing the right thing” for undocumented children who have lived in the United States most of their entirelives and hope to continue their education beyond high school.

“[Undocumented students] have aspirations to continue, but their futures are foreclosed by having to pay out-of-state tuition,” Morse said in a phone interview, adding that “The opposition to the bill is opposition to illegal immigration.”

CAUSA posted a blog entry that lists the qualifications for receiving in-state tuition under the bill.

Other groups supporting the bill included the American Federation of TeachersOregon Education Association and Service Employees International Union.

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New Republic: How did Arizona become so anti-immigrant?

Posted February 18th, 2011 in Uncategorized by steve

In the spring of 2010, the Arizona legislature passed one of the harshest immigration measures in years: SB1070, which makes it a crime for immigrants not to carry documentation at all times. The law ignited a national uproar, the Justice Department announced that it plans to sue the state, and Arizona was pilloried in the press for encouraging racial profiling. Now, however, the state legislature is considering several bills that could be even worse.

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