Is ignorance bliss?
On Monday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 130 which ultimately allows undocumented students, also referred to as AB 540 students, to receive financial aid through institutional funds. Consequently, this relieves some of the burden that AB 540 students face when trying to come up with ways to pay for their education; this bill is solely a window of opportunity.
As I was reading online articles about AB 130 I began to read the comments in discussion forums. I am aware that people can be narrow-minded but reading the comments and rebuttals, I found myself disgusted by arguments used to attack the new law. People actually think that gaining citizenship is a simple process that consists of waiting in line and submitting applications. Some people floated the idea that private funders will get tax exemptions for aiding undocumented students.
Many comments made this a Latino issue, and as one of my good friends pointed out, the media likes to sensationalize this into a race issue when really it is a multi-ethnic issue. One commentator chose the argument that the new law results in an equally qualified US citizen having to attend a CSU school or community college, meaning the “illegal alien” stole a slot in the UC system. My favorite argument claims that easing access to private funds will in effect contribute to a rise in American unemployment.
Reading the different perspectives of a random assortment of people, one particular saying came to mind: Ignorance is bliss! There was no other way to come to terms with the realization that people choose to be narrow-minded. I respect the idea of people having opposing views, but come on — at least have valid points. And so here I am with the intent of promoting dialogues between those who live in bliss and those who are in touch with reality. At the very least, if people still choose to disparage AB 130 they will have the decency to research and make valid arguments that can seriously question the new law.
First off, becoming a citizen is not simple. You have to be eligible to apply for permanent residency. Eligibility is based on multiple factors composed of petitioning through work, family, relatives, refugee or asylee status.
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, “Congress has set a finite number of visas that can be used each year for each category of immigrants.” The more you look into it you will discover that there are multiple obstacles to becoming legal in this country. This is especially the case for undocumented students who had no say in their arrival to this country.
Most importantly, take the time to ask: Why are there so many undocumented people and students in the country? Possible reasons include corrupt native governments and economic and social turmoil in their native countries (exactly how their native countries got to that position).
As an online commentator pointed out, this is not a black and white issue. The argument of tax exemptions is a valid point yet the hypocrisy at the base of it is too ridiculous to be ignored. Have we forgotten about California’s Prop 13 (1978)? Corporate companies are the ones who benefit from Prop 13 while California’s education system pays the price.
It is important to debunk the idea that the issue at hand is about the Latino community when in reality it is people of multiple ethnicities that make up this particular student group.
When it comes to putting the spotlight on undocumented students who differ from the stereotype, there is Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, born in the Philippines or ASUC senator Ju Hong from South Korea. It is easy to assume that many of the undocumented students are of Latino origin because of the border proximity. The reality is that its people of different backgrounds who arrive in the United States for a better life and greater opportunity.
The idea that an undocumented student is taking away a citizen’s place in the UC system is nonsensical. Simply look up the UC website and the 14 factors weighed to determine acceptance into a UC school.
Further proof that citizenship and race is not taken into consideration are the “Principles of Community” found on the Berkeley website as well as the UC Diversity Statement. The naked truth is that individuals who make it into the UC system do so because they are better qualified based on academia, not citizenship — no theft occurs. Based on the concept of being more prepared and eligible for a UC school, this logic can also be applied to the argument of “job stealing.” This argument is so ironic I get a chuckle out of it. If an undocumented student who faces many obstacles to receive any form of higher education is hired instead of a U.S. citizen who has more resources, what does that say about the citizen?
What I propose to readers and avid commentators is to do research and be aware of what is going on and understand why it is happening. I advise a healthy dialogue.
I am not telling you which side to choose, but I am advising you to stop living out the old adage, “ignorance is bliss.” The United States has always encouraged education, and to not educate yourself is oxymoronic. To remain uninformed goes against the goal of AB 130: increasing access to education in California.
Marisol Dominguez is a UC Berkeley undergraduate student.