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November 11, 2009

Texan Students Debate Financial Aid for Illegal Immigrants

Evan is a student at Westside High School in Houston and is a member of The Houston Chronicle journalism classroom program. Kamaria is a senior at Carnegie Vanguard High School in Houston and is also a member of The Houston Chronicle journalism classroom program.

Texas is one of 11 states to offer in-state tuition to illegal immigrants that meet certain criteria through its financial aid form, the Texas Application for Federal Aid.

Texan student reporters Evan and Kamaria, both 18, debate whether undocumented immigrants should be able to apply for financial aid supported by taxpayer dollars.



Only American Citizens Should Receive Federally Funded Financial Aid

– By Evan Dunbar, Age 18

A college education is the best thing someone can get if they want to get on the fast track to having a successful professional life. But with tuition costs rising and the economy falling deeper and deeper into a recession, an education is increasingly more difficult for today’s families to afford.

Because of this, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is becoming a widely-used government-sponsored financial aid service for millions of incoming college freshman.

Here in Texas, not only do we have FAFSA, we have TAFSA as well. TAFSA is the state of Texas’ form for student financial aid which also helps“undocumented” or “illegal” immigrants.

Illegal immigration has been a widely debated topic over the last few years. Many Americans argue that illegal immigrants deserve some of the rights and privileges of American citizens.

But when illegal immigrants, many of whom do not pay taxes because they are paid under the table, start to take taxpayer funds to attend American colleges — that is the last straw.

Supporters of TAFSA argue that top students who are “undocumented” should be able to attend some of the world’s best universities in the United States.

But undocumented immigrants can apply for citizenship and become legal. As legal citizens of the United States, they can attend whichever institution they like.

The estimated illegal immigrant population in the United States is between 11 and 12 million, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, with a large majority of those coming from Mexico and Latin America.

Texas has the longest state border with Mexico, so it is not surprising that there were an estimated 1.5 million illegal aliens living in Texas in 2005, according to the Pew Hispanic Center – the second highest population in the United States.

The Texas Comptrollers office estimates that Texan taxpayers spent slightly less that $950 million from 2004 to 2005 educating undocumented children in public schools.

American schools and financial aid should be only for legal citizens of the United States. There should be no exceptions to this.

Whether you were born in the United States or not, if you are undocumented, you are illegal, and you have no right to use the resources of America.

Undocumented Students Deserve a Chance

– By Kamaria Monmouth, Age 18

Students who are not permanent residents or citizens are able to receive temporary citizenship and apply for financial benefits through the Texas Application for State Financial Aid, or TAFSA.

To qualify for benefits from TAFSA, students must meet the requirement of becoming a licensed permanent resident as soon as possible, in addition to meeting one of these requirements: having parents that pay taxes, enlisting in the armed forces, or maintaining a certain grade point average.

Keep in mind; TAFSA recipients do not receive money so easily. They have to fill out forms and the grants they are provided with are based on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Still, TAFSA is a way to provide opportunities to students that would have otherwise been denied certain benefits.

Students that are afforded a good education and are willing to succeed also are deserving of these benefits. By trying their best and excelling in college; they help to pave a way for their children to succeed. Instead of wasting state money, they are giving back through an education that will one day help them to be one of the leading citizens that benefit the state.

Growing up in America from a young age helps to foster political ties to it, and creates a sense of patriotism that endures. Cases like these help to give students certain educational benefits and students are more likely to be appreciative of the benefits they receive.

TAFSA recipients that serve in the military are risking their lives for the greater good of this country and because of their unremitting patriotism, they deserve nothing less than money to give them a good education.

TAFSA recipients who receive money for a college education are working to become successful. If they do, the state benefits because these students will become good workers and continue a legacy of education through their children.

Even if the students do not make a great impact through their educational opportunities, they still help to benefit the state because once they become citizens, their income tax dollars go right back to the state.

Unlike CARIBE Refugee recipients who receive free English Language lessons, opportunities to receive their GED, and vocational training without having to be bound to the United States; TAFSA recipients have to become citizens and do not get away with benefits from the United States without giving back.

In terms of TAFSA, the state benefits from the possibility of educational contributions recipients can make and also by the binding ties of citizenship that the recipients commit to. Also, the state and the students act as mutual partners. The state provides money so that the students can receive educational benefits and in the process help to form tomorrow’s leading citizens and future tax payers.

So, why deny students the benefit of an education when they are only helping to give back to the state through their tax money and educational pursuits?

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