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Undocumented Tenn. residents want in-state tuition

Non-profit Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, or TIRRC, encouraged APSU students to lobby for undocumented Tennessee residents’ right for in-state tuition during their visit to APSU on Monday, Nov. 2.

TIRRC is a non-profit focusing on the empowerment and support of immigrants and refugees to the state.

According to their webpage, they, “…are a coalition of immigrants, refugees and allies working to lift up fundamental American freedoms and human rights and build a strong, welcoming and inclusive Tennessee.”

According to the TIRRC, 25,000 undocumented “dreamers,” young people that came to the United States as a child, cannot afford to further their education because they are unable to pay tuition prices in the state of Tennessee.

Since they are not citizens, they are unable to receive state funding from the FASFA to pay for school.

TIRRC is trying to make it possible for these “dreamers” to further their education.

The bill they discussed was the Tuition Equality Bill HB 675. It was introduced to Tennessee Legislature this year by State Representative Mark White and would give these “dreamers” the right to pay in-state tuition in Tennessee.

When it went to the floor the first time it fell short by one vote.

Two APSU graduates are part of the Tennessee General Assembly. Representative Joe Pitts voted for the bill and Representative Jay Reedy did not.

Since the bill passed through majority, it will go up for re-vote in February 2016.

Chris Avarado, an 18-year-old recent graduate of La Vergne High School spoke about his struggle with paying college fees.

“I came to the United States when I was one,” Avarado said. “I have lived here seventeen years of my life and I have to pay out of state tuition because I am undocumented.”

President Obama created a new policy called DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals security number. It only lasts for two years and can be renewed when time runs out.

Avarado is a recipient of this policy, which gives the right to childhood immigrants to receive a work and driver’s license and social security number, but it still does not give him the opportunity or citizenship.

Cesar Bautista, Youth Organizer for TIRRC, also spoke and discussed how hard it is to apply for citizenship in the U.S.

“Each country requires you to have certain requirements in order to apply,” Bautista said. “The line is beyond 15 years to wait and that’s not even a guarantee.”

For undocumented residents, the wait could stretch longer than 20 years.

“Once they make the decision to come to the United States as an undocumented resident, there is a ban,” Bautista said. “So if you’re here for one year as an undocumented resident that puts you at a 10-year ban where you can not apply for anything until you complete that ban.”

For more information go to www.tnimmigrant.org.

About Celeste Malone

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