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Immigrants Celebrate Thanksgiving Luncheon

Patrick Administration says newly documented students who meet certain criteria will be eligible for in-state tuition.

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November 21, 2012 BOSTONAt 11:30 Monday morning over 300 immigrants, refugees, service-providers, and policymakers gathered to celebrate the contributions of new Americans at a Thanksgiving Luncheon held by the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition.

Congressman Michael Capuano was among several speakers who addressed the luncheon crowd, and emphasized how important it is to remember our common immigrant heritage. "Shame on you for forgetting your parents, your grandparents, your great-grandparents," he said, alluding to the anti-immigrant rhetoric that has shaped our national debate over immigration. But the Congressman spoke with optimism, and emphasized the real possibility for immigration reform in Washington.

MIRA Executive Director Eva Millona addresses the crowd

MIRA and its members were especially thankful for the news that many DREAMers in Massachusetts would now have increased access to higher education. The Thanksgiving celebration coincided with Governor Patrick's announcement that DACA beneficiaries -- who are newly documented youth under the federal government's policy of "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" (DACA) -- can, like other documented immigrants, pay in-state tuition at state public colleges if they meet the other requirements demonstrating Massachusetts residence.

The Governor's announcement is an important clarification of existing rules, not a new policy.  Under the existing Board of Higher Education policy, citizens and documented immigrants who can produce certain immigration documents from the federal government are eligible to pay in-state tuition if they meet the other requirements showing Massachusetts residence.

The Governor's announcement provides clear guidance that DACA beneficiaries, like other documented immigrants, can demonstrate their lawful status by producing any of the documents that have long been accepted as evidence.  For example, under the existing Board of Higher Education policy, a student can provide a work authorization card from the federal government as evidence of lawful status. Those granted DACA are eligible for work authorization and this is one document they too can provide.

"It’s making good on an investment so many of our taxpayers have already made," Lieutenant Governor Murray said at the luncheon, citing the initial investment Massachusetts has already made in the education of these undocumented youths. Immigrant advocates have argued that equal access to college in Massachusetts allows the state to stay competitive in an economy led by innovation and technology and also ensures we have the workforce to provide care for an aging population.

MIRA's Executive Director Eva Millona lauded the announcement saying, "We couldn't have asked for better news on this day of thanks. This clarification from the administration is an important step in ensuring newly documented students have the same rights and privileges as others. But we know that the fight for access to higher education is not over. Undocumented students who do not meet the age or continuous residence requirements for DACA status will remain undocumented and, as such, ineligible for in-state tuition under the existing Board of Higher Education policy, but these students also deserve a shot at achieving their full potential and giving back to their communities."

In light of the reality that undocumented students remain ineligible to pay in-state tuition in Massachusetts, Ms. Millona stated "MIRA will carry on the fight for state legislation to make in-state tuition available without regard to immigration status and to make higher education achievable for everyone."

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