May 25, 2010

USSA Board of Directors Opposes Controversial AZ Laws

During their spring meeting, the United States Student Association (USSA) Board of Directors passed a resolution condemning three recently enacted Arizona laws. In response to the resolution, USSA President Gregory Cendana issued the following statement:

“The United States Student Association’s (USSA) vision is to help engender a just society in which social change is created through an empowered and diverse youth community. In keeping with this vision, the USSA Board of Directors recently passed a resolution opposing three Arizona laws repugnant to a just society.

The first law, SB 1070, requires Arizonan immigrants to carry their registration documents at all times and gives police broad power to detain anyone suspected of illegal immigration. The policy codifies racial profiling, making many Arizonans suddenly and without cause suspects of illegal immigration. The legislation has inspired other state legislatures to begin crafting similar laws, making this a national issue requiring a national response. As the oldest and largest national student organization, USSA has a responsibility to stand against this law and others like it.

SB 1070 is also bad higher education public policy. President Shelton of the University of Arizona stated that, ‘the families of a number of out-of-state students have told [the university] that they are changing their plans and will be sending their children to universities in other states.’ USSA will not support, and will indeed oppose, laws that discourage college attendance. What’s more, the law creates an unfunded mandate at a time when the state and nation are suffering recessions of historic proportions. The cost of policing, detaining, trying, and deporting suspected undocumented immigrants will be vast and may result in further cuts to higher education.

Second, HB 2382/ SB 1097 requires public school teachers to report undocumented students to Arizona’s Department of Education. Even if they are undocumented, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that they are still entitled to certain inalienable rights that cannot be violated by Arizona, including the right to a K-12 education.

Along with SB 1070, this law threatens the rich diversity so long enjoyed by Arizona’s early and secondary schools. In addition, these laws will result in families that have both citizen and undocumented children weighing the benefits of enrolling a child in school against the potential threat of being discovered and deported. No family should be forced into a dilemma that contradicts USSA’s principle that an education is a right not to be conditioned upon one’s immigration status.

Third, HB 2281 forbids the teaching of ethnic studies programs that are perceived by the state superintendent to ‘galvanize ethnic solidarity.’ In defense of this law, Arizona Superintendent and candidate for state Attorney General Tom Horne has made the argument that if students learn about ethnic cultures, histories, and literature, then they will cease to treat others as individuals. The logic jump from ethnic education to anti-individualism is baseless and without an iota of evidence. WE must be able to learn, understand, and appreciate our diverse backgrounds and stories in order to celebrate diversity as a community and work towards a just society.

The Arizona anti-immigrant laws were passed in a vacuum of non-existent federal action, making their proliferation in border and high-immigrant populated states likely and USSA’s action necessary. Therefore, USSA calls for a comprehensive, national solution, beginning with the passage of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act this year.

It has been said that America’s youth is its conscience. In that light, as the oldest and largest student organization, with a proud history of inclusion, diversity, and tolerance, the United States Student Association unequivocally opposes these laws as unjust infringements on the human and civil rights of Arizonans.”

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